Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Concerning New Warning to Anyone Who's Had COVID

The infectious disease expert has bad news about future protection.

The coronavirus has worked its way around to a majority of Americans over the last two-and-a-half years. In 2020, it was shocking enough to find out someone you knew had been exposed to COVID, much less that they'd tested positive. But at this point in the pandemic, catching COVID has become so common that many of us know people who have been infected two or even three times. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been more than 88 total million reported cases of COVID in the U.S. And if you're one of the millions who have been infected, you should heed a new alert from the nation's most notable virus expert. Read on to find out what anyone who has had COVID needs to know now.

READ THIS NEXT: Top Virus Experts Issue Urgent New Warning to Anyone Who Has Had COVID.

Many Americans were infected with COVID during the rise of Omicron.

Doctor with protection gloves doing Coronavirus nasal swab test on senior female patient

While data from the CDC shows that there have only been 88 million coronavirus infections reported in the U.S., the agency believes COVID's reach is much higher than this. Based on antibody surveillance, the CDC estimated that there had actually been more than 186 million COVID cases in the country as of Feb. 2022. An April report from the agency indicates that this means approximately 60 percent of all American adults had signs of a previous COVID infection in their blood by this point. And a large portion of these infections were caused by the Omicron variant, as only half as many people had antibodies in their blood before Dec. 2021, when the highly contagious form of the virus started spreading.

Dr. Fauci has raised concern about a new version of Omicron.

Scientist studying COVID-19 in lab

We've come a long way since BA.1, the original Omicron variant, was dominating the country this past winter. Over the last few months, several different subvariants of Omicron have been making their way around the U.S., with the BA.5 subvariant recently becoming the dominant coronavirus variant, according to the CDC. During a White House press briefing on July 12, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said that BA.5 is estimated to account for nearly 65 percent of all new COVID cases in the country right now.

In the same briefing, top COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, raised a number of concerns about COVID, particularly in regards to this version of the virus. "Omicron, as a broad category, has been particularly problematic," Fauci said. But according to the infectious disease expert, BA.5 has a "growth advantage" over prior Omicron subvariants, and it also "substantially evades neutralizing antibodies induced in people by vaccination and infection."

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The virus expert is warning people that a prior infection might no longer protect them.

woman getting tested in a medical clinic for a corona virus, taking a nasal swab test

Before the rise of Omicron, the CDC said research indicated that the "risk of reinfection is low" for at least six months after an initial COVID infection, due to natural immunity. But Fauci just made it clear that's not always the case anymore. During the White House press briefing, the infectious disease expert warned that those infected with the original Omicron variant "really don't have a lot of good protection" against BA.5, or its sister subvariant BA.4, which is estimated to account for 16 percent of COVID cases right now, per the CDC.

"It's very, very clear … that immunity wanes," Fauci said. "Whether that's immunity following infection or immunity following vaccine, even though the immediate protection following infection or vaccine is generally good protection."

Health experts are urging people to get vaccinated even if they've been infected.

A middle-aged woman receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker

Walensky confirmed that people with prior infection—even with BA.1 or the recent Omicron subvariant, BA.2—are "likely still at risk" for infection with BA.4 or BA.5. But as they have been for some time, virus experts are urging people to get vaccinated, noting that it can make a substantial difference even if you were recently infected with COVID. "We do know and have seen large amounts of data that have demonstrated that if you've previously been infected and you also get vaccinated, you have much more protection than prior infection alone," Walensky said.

According to the CDC director, many Americans are "under-vaccinated" right now, meaning they are not up-to-date on their COVID vaccines. The agency's data shows that while 78.4 percent of the total U.S. population has gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, only 67 percent have been fully vaccinated, just 47.9 percent have gotten their first booster, and only 27.7 percent of those eligible have had a second booster.

"If you are not vaccinated to the fullest, namely you have not gotten your boosters according to what the recommendation are, then you're putting yourself at an increased risk that you could mitigate against by getting vaccinated," Fauci added.

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