(CBS NEWSPATH) – Nearly three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus is still evolving, and new research shows just how much immunity we’re getting after being infected.

Those two little lines that show a positive COVID test can cause plenty of anxiety, but researchers say COVID infections are giving a good deal of protection too. “Infection gives you a lot of immunity. I think that’s the high-level message, particularly for severe disease and death,” says Chris Murray, Director of Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

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The study from IHME at the University of Washington finds natural immunity is strong and long-lasting for people infected with COVID-19 at least once before, giving them up to ten months of protection from re-infection or serious illness. It also lowers their risk of hospitalization and death by 88 percent.

It’s the most comprehensive analysis yet on COVID immunity. Researchers looked at 65 studies from 19 countries up until September of last year. They found people with natural immunity from a pre-Omicron variant saw their protection against re-infection wear off more quickly. “That protection, particularly for infection, dropped a lot for Omicron, so we’re down around about 50 percent protection for infection,” says Murray.

While findings showed a COVID infection gives similar immunity to a double dose of COVID vaccine, researchers say getting a jab is still the easiest way to protect yourself. Murray says, “You can get immunity through infection, but it runs the risk that you’re gonna be one of those cases that can affect all age groups actually, where you have a bad outcome, you are hospitalized, or you could even die. “

Researchers add that COVID isn’t going away and say as the virus evolves, vigilance against another variant is crucial.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the U.S. is still seeing an average of more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases every day.