• Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

Covid-19: Why some Aussies completely escaped being infected

We all know that one person who claims they still haven’t had Covid.

An estimated one in 10 Australians – that’s 2.6 million people – may belong to an exceedingly rare group, dubbed NOVIDs, although the exact number of people who have not had the virus remains unknown.

Adrian Esterman, chair of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, based his estimate on the most recent serology reports done by the Kirby Institute and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, which check blood samples from the Red Cross for antibodies against the virus.

The last report from November 2022 found that 70 per cent of the adult population had been infected, and Prof Estermann estimates that this number would now be closer to 90 per cent.

Phillip Schubert, a lawyer who splits his time between Canberra and Hobart, has yet to receive a positive Covid-19 test result.

Despite having spent time with friends who later tested positive for the virus and frequently travelling by plane, Mr Schubert has managed to avoid infection.

While he has been fully vaccinated, he believes his good fortune is mostly due to “weird blind luck”.

Similarly, Christine Brooks, a 62-year-old Geelong resident who lives alone and works part-time in a small office, has not contracted Covid-19.

She wears a mask when going shopping and lives a more subdued lifestyle than she did in the past, which she believes has contributed to her staying healthy.

Prof Esterman notes that children are often the ones who bring the virus home from childcare or school, and that many people may have contracted the virus from their children.

“There could be genetics at play,“ he told SBS.

“We know some people have got a genetic profile that makes them resistant to HIV, for example. There are studies around the world now to try and find out if people that have a particular combination of genes that might cause reason for it, but we don‘t know yet.”

“We know that about 40 per cent of common colds are caused by coronaviruses [other than Covid-19]. It could be that if you had a recent cold, you get some sort of cross-immunity.”

Up to four million Australians were infected with Covid-19 over the past four months.

Health Minister Mark Butler is optimistic the end of the Omicron wave is on the horizon but concedes it has lingered longer than expected.

“There’s no doubt that this wave has endured for longer than was expected … longer than the advice that was received by governments,” he told reporters in Canberra last week.

“It was not short or sharp. It lingered for longer, and had a very significant impact on the community, our health care system and many individuals, tragically resulting in the loss of many lives.”

Since the wave began in October, more than one million people had registered as contracting the virus. But the minister said the true number of Australians infected was estimated to be between three to four million.

Chief medical officer Paul Kelly said while those number were still high, it was less than previous Omicron waves.

“The flattered curve that we had at this wave demonstrates to me that there is a large amount of retention right now in the community in terms of hybrid immunity,” he said.

More than 2600 Australians have died with the virus since October. Around 800 of those deaths were aged care residents.

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