Austria: Ischgl residents show long-term coronavirus immunity

Nine out of ten residents of Austria’s Ischgl ski resort who contracted coronavirus have retained a long-term immunity, a new study has found.

Austria: Ischgl residents show long-term coronavirus immunity
Austria's Ischgl ski resort. Photo: DPA

Residents of the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl – one of Europe’s coronavirus hotspots in the first wave of the pandemic – still have a high antibody count, almost one year since the outbreak. 

The findings show that the immunity acquired after a coronavirus infection is relatively stable, reported Austrian news outlet ORF.  

Ischgl became the subject of international headlines after being the site of Europe’s first ‘superspreader’ event. 

READ MORE: Austria's Ischgl ski resort 'mishandled coronavirus outbreak' 

Germany's Spiegel magazine called it “the party place which infected half of Europe”. 

Nine in ten still have coronavirus antibodies

Around 90 percent of those who had antibodies after contracting the virus in April 2020 still had antibodies in November, a study from the Medical University of Innsbruck found. 

The study, published Thursday, was carried out in November among 900 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 89 from the picturesque Austrian village. 

Of the 900 tested, 801 still retained antibodies at least six months after first contracting the virus. 

“With their blood samples, the course of immunity was analysed using serological antibody tests and specific methods for measuring the cellular defence,” said study chief Wegene Borena. 

Relatively stable immune response, but no ‘herd immunity’

University President W. Wolfgang Fleischhacker welcomed the results, saying there was “finally some good news from Ischgl”. 

“The Medical University of Innsbruck can thus make a decisive contribution to the question of how long an immunity lasts after a SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Fleischhacker said. 

The authors are however cautious to remind the public that herd immunity could not be assumed in the region, despite the rate of new infections during the autumn of 2020 – when a second wave swept through much of Austria – being less than one percent.

“Despite a slight decrease in the antibody concentration compared to the first study, we can speak of a relatively stable immunity. In just under 90 percent of those who tested positive in April 2020, antibodies could also be detected in November,” said immunologist Dorothee von Laer. 

She said distance rules and mask wearing would have also contributed to the low rate of new infections. 

Nevertheless, von Laer said the study's findings might show a way out of the pandemic. 

“Ischgl is a case of hope. Hope for an earlier return to normalcy.”

Member comments

  1. Following this article, I’d like to know what is a “good” level of antibodies. I’d also like to know how many antibodies ist the equivalent of immunity from the vaccine.

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EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

Austria's capital city Vienna has begun registration appointments for those who want to get a monkeypox vaccine. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

As of September 9th, people can make reservations for monkeypox vaccination in Vienna, authorities announced. It is possible to register for the vaccine using the health service line by calling 1450 or via the Impfservice website.

The City of Vienna has said the pre-registration is needed because all planning will be done through a central system due to a shortage of vaccines.

“Please understand that due to the vaccine shortage, we cannot offer preventive monkeypox vaccination to everyone interested. We can use the reservation platform to quickly allocate available appointments and contact interested parties as soon as there are more vaccines”, the authorities said.

After the registration, people will be contacted to book appointments on September 14th. The first available date will be September 19th.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Who should be vaccinated against monkeypox?

Vaccination of the general population is currently not recommended.

Preventive vaccination is only offered to health care workers with a very high risk of exposure to people with monkeypox (designated monkeypox departments/outpatient clinics/offices) and persons with individual risk behaviour (persons with frequently changing sexual contacts), the City of Vienna said.

The health authorities in Vienna also have a specific information sheet in English with more information on the disease.

Monkeypox is a notifiable disease caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus and which can cause a condition similar to smallpox but rarely deadly. People with immunodeficiencies, pregnant women and children are at risk of more severe symptoms.

The virus spreads from person to person through contact with infectious skin lesions, via air droplets through speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other body fluids, and when having prolonged and close physical contact, e.g. through sexual intercourse.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Usually, the first symptoms show up 5 to 14 days (at the latest, 21 days) after exposure. These include fever, general exhaustion, headaches, muscle and body aches, gastrointestinal problems and frequently painfully swollen lymph nodes.

“If you have symptoms and have had contact with someone with monkeypox, you must self-isolate at once and call 1450. If you have a confirmed monkeypox infection, you need to stay in self-isolation until the last crust has fallen off”, the Austrian authorities added.