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Don't worry about third wave of COVID, experts say

By Zou Shuo| China Daily| Updated: August 15, 2023 L M S

Current infection level is low and cases mostly present very mild symptoms

Despite rising numbers of people on social media claiming to have been infected with COVID-19 for a third time recently, experts have said that those reinfected most likely only had mild symptoms.

While the phrase "third-time COVID" has trended on microblogging platform Sina Weibo, experts said that only a relatively small number of people in the general population have been infected three times and the public doesn't need to worry about a third wave of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday classified the EG.5 coronavirus strain as a "variant of interest" but said it did not pose more of a threat than other variants.

The EG.5 strain is a substrain of the Omicron variant and has been detected in 51 countries, according to the WHO.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while overall risk is low, based on its genetic features, immune escape characteristics and growth rate estimates, EG.5 may spread globally and contribute to a surge in case incidence.

However, the risk of severe disease and death is vastly lower than it was a year ago, due to increasing population immunity — whether from vaccination, infection or both — and from early diagnosis and better clinical care.

Data released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Aug 3 show that the number of severe cases and cases in fever clinics both declined in July.

All 9,591 COVID-19 cases reported in July were the Omicron variant, mostly the XBB subvariant, according to the center.

Peng Jie, director of the treatment center for infectious diseases at Nanfang Hospital in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, said only a very small number of the patients treated at the hospital were third-time COVID patients, and they only had mild symptoms.

COVID-19 is still stable and at a low level of infection in China, he told local media Nanfang Plus.

He said online speculation that the next wave of COVID-19 infections might happen in November has no scientific basis, and the public does not need to worry.

Wang Gang, deputy director of the infectious disease department at Qilu Hospital of Shandong University, said the more times people get infected, the milder the symptoms become.

When people get infected for the third time, it is likely they will only feel very mild symptoms and pay little attention to it, he told newspaper Dazhong Daily.

"Most people with normal immune systems do not need to worry about getting infected multiple times because their symptoms are too mild to be noticed or need medication."

Li Tong, a doctor at the department of respiratory and infectious disease at Beijing YouAn Hospital, affiliated with Capital Medical University, said the number of COVID-19 cases has increased recently, but overall, infections are still low. Most of the cases are first or second-time infections, he said.

Zhao Wei, director of the biosecurity research center at the School of Public Health of Southern Medical University, said the fluctuation of COVID-19 cases is still within a manageable range, and the public can rest assured.

However, if COVID-19 infections lead to new symptoms or a significant increase of serious cases or deaths, disease control authorities will raise the alarm, and then the public will need to take more precautions, he said.

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