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Seven reasons why people have never had Covid - or so they think

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 03/07/2022 Jane Tyler & Catherine Furze
An ill woman wearing a face mask © Getty Images An ill woman wearing a face mask

Two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, it's amazing to believe that there are still some people who have never caught the virus.

It's claimed the lives of millions of victims worldwide, yet there's still vast swathes of the population who've never had it, and studies are now under way to try to find out what their secret is.

Coronavirus first hit the UK at the start of 2020 and is still with us today, although it is now regarded as being under control, thanks to the vaccine programme, which started at the end of the same year. However, the virus has killed more than 180,000 people and infected 22.7 million people in the UK and is on the rise again, with 21,412 new cases reported on June 28, the most recent data available, according to BirminghamLive.

Using current Government data, seven in 10 people (70%) in England have had Covid - which means 30%of the English population have never caught the virus. Or have they?

Read more: Covid vaccine dilemma for health bosses as cases surge in the UK

Several major international studies are under way to find out how they are dodging Covid. Dr Tara Hurst, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at Birmingham City University, is studying this area. "There is a population who say they've never had Covid and then are those poor souls who've had it several times," she said. "It is a very complex area which is now attracting a lot of research."

So why have some people never had Covid?

They've had Covid but didn't realise it

Dr Hurst said many people who say they have never had coronavirus probably have had it, but without any symptoms. "I'd say that between 45 to 90% of people who think they've never had it actually have, but were asymptomatic," she said. According to Dr Hurst, one study had found that 45% of people who tested positive actually had no symptoms. And once you've been vaccinated, there is no way of knowing if you had ever had Covid.

You thought you just had a cold

There's another group of people who did have Covid but just dismissed it as a cold. This is because as the pandemic continued, the list of symptoms changed. Dr Hurst said: "Not everyone had a cough or lost their sense of smell and taste. As the different variants arrived, so did the different symptoms and many sufferers would have just shrugged off their Covid, saying, it's just a cold."

Not everyone gets tested

Testing is crucial for gauging the official rates in the population but some people have never taken a test and if they did, only did a lateral flow one, which isn't as reliable as the PCR ones.

They're genetically different

Dr Hurst said there's also a small group of people who have never had Covid and haven't been vaccinated. This could be down to luck, but it's more likely there's something going on with their genetics which makes them resistant to viruses such as Covid.

"These people are very rare indeed and there's something going on with their bodies which means they can get the virus but it doesn't affect their cells, which means they don't actually develop Covid," she said. A study is currently under way to delve deeper into these people's health and participants are needed. To take part, register here.

Their 'negative' test was wrong

The most common way to find out if you have Covid is the Lateral Flow Test (LFT). At the height of infections, LFTs were given out free and were readily available and all people had to do was put the swab up their nose and then wait a short time for the results.

But LFTs weren't as reliable and accurate as the more uncomfortable PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, which involved the gag-inducing swabbing the back of the throat. Some medics think LFTs were only 40% accurate - which means millions of people who had a 'negative' result could in fact have been positive.

They're super healthy

Dr Hurst said those who had not had any Covid symptoms, or never caught it, could be regarded as super healthy, but it's more likely they have a more robust immune system. "This could be down to their genetics, but essentially they have an immune system which is super strong and fights the virus," she said.

"They will have good general health, with factors such as good levels of Vitamins C and D. Stress is also a huge factor in this, as high levels of stress can have a negative impact on the immune system."

They behave differently

Like all viruses, if don't come into close contact with people very often, then you're less likely to catch it and the way you live can have a big impact on whether you fall prey to Covid. Measures such as wearing a mask when in public, avoiding large crowds, getting vaccinated and not getting too close to strangers are all proven to reduce your chances of getting the virus.

Does this mean they'll never get Covid?

The answer is, nobody knows. Dr Hurst said: "I would say to those who've never had it - thank your lucky stars!"

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