explainer

Infection parties and scheduling sickness: We need to talk about 'convenient COVID'.

After years of masking up and locking down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some are now trying to do exactly the... opposite.

Enter: COVID parties. 

They're the worrying new trend you've probably been seeing on your social media feeds, as people try to intentionally catch COVID-19 at a time convenient for them.

But while not wanting to get the virus ahead of an important event is understandable, trying to deliberately get COVID 'over and done with' for the sake of immunity is not as foolproof as some might think.

"It is ridiculous," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press conference last week.

"Reinfection can occur with Omicron. So, if you think you can go out there and get the virus and get it over with, that is not how it works. That is not how the virus is writing the rules."

Watch: Thank you to masks. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia.

In NSW, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said she was "really horrified" to learn people may be intentionally trying to get COVID-19.

"Although we've talked about Omicron being a milder disease, it can still cause serious consequences," she said.

"I would hate to have a situation where people were knowingly exposing themselves to any COVID virus.

"Please keep yourself safe and take those precautions."

To find out just how risky COVID parities are, we spoke to Sydney GP Dr Brad McKay and clinical epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter, Head of the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne, about why trying to catch COVID-19 really isn't a good idea.  

Here are just four reasons why you shouldn't. 

1. You could get really sick and may develop 'long COVID'. 

"Would you be keen to join in if someone was holding a syphilis party? Hopefully not. COVID parties are similarly a bad idea," Dr McKay told Mamamia.

"You may be fortunate enough to experience only mild symptoms and recover quickly, but there’s still a chance you’ll start struggling to breathe and need to go to hospital."

There's also the risk of developing 'long COVID'. 

"Even a mild infection can trigger 'long COVID'. This is a condition where people recover from their initial respiratory infection but then experience incredible fatigue that lasts for many months," he explained. 

ADVERTISEMENT

2. You could accidentally give COVID-19 to someone more vulnerable. 

Yep, attending COVID parties doesn't just put your own health on the line. 

"If you get COVID, you could give it to somebody else who's not as protected as you [or] who has significant risk factors for getting severe COVID," Professor Baxter told The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast.

"And really, the last thing you want to do is end up causing serious harm to say, your grandmother, because you've been to a COVID party and got COVID."

Hear more from Professor Nancy Baxter on The Quicky. Post continues below.

3. You're placing unnecessary stress on an already heavily burdened healthcare system. 

"Hospitals can generally cope if there is a slow and steady flow of people into the emergency department, but no hospital system can cope with a massive rush of sick patients knocking on their triage door," says Dr McKay.

"Last year in Australia, we were able to keep the number of new cases under control, but over the past few weeks we’ve seen a phenomenal increase. All of us either know someone who has had COVID-19 or we’ve had it ourselves. 

The curve is no longer flat - it is mountainous - and attending a party with the intention of exposing yourself to the virus just adds more height to the top of that COVID mountain."

Instead, Dr McKay says one of the best ways to help relieve pressure from the health system is to get vaccinated and keep up to date with booster shots. 

"We know the vaccines aren’t 100 per cent effective at stopping you from getting sick, but they are spectacularly effective at keeping you well enough to stay out of hospital. 

"If you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19 and you’re due for your next vaccine dose, there’s no need to delay getting it. Book it in!"

4. You don't know how long your immunity will actually last for. 

Getting COVID-19 doesn't mean you're in the clear to never get it again. 

"COVID-19 isn’t something to get ‘over and done with’ - it’s not like pulling off a band-aid. Plenty of people around the world have been sick from COVID-19 three or four times already, so please don’t think that getting COVID will then make you invincible," says Dr McKay. 

In terms of how long your immunity will last, Dr McKay says you're "unlikely" to catch COVID-19 again in the next three months after recovery, "but after that time your immunity starts to decrease and you’ll be at risk of infection once again".

That said, Professor Baxter stresses "immunity from getting COVID is not really reliable".

"If you get a very mild case of Omicron, it may not actually protect you that much because your immune system may not have developed many antibodies or memory cells that will help you fight off the next variant."

"In some cases, [getting COVID-19] might give you a lot of immunity from future infection, but in other cases, it may not give you much at all."

Feature Image: Getty.