Two good news about omicron for the new year: it may not be around for long, and people who are fully vaccinated don’t have to worry, as long as they have an immune system. healthy.
Because omicron is incredibly contagious, medical experts say its peak should not last long.
It has already burned down across South Africa since it was first identified the day before Thanksgiving and cases are falling there. In the week ending Dec. 26, the number of new diagnoses had fallen nearly 36% from their peak a week earlier, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
If the Northeast, which has been battered by the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the past two weeks, follows the same pattern, it could see case rates drop as early as mid-January, but since then the United States is so large that it will likely take a long time to cross the country, experts say.
The news is even better for those vaccinated. Although twoinjections are not as protective against omicron as against previous variants, vaccination and booster seem to make a big difference in people with healthy immune systems.
Those with three strokes who are infected seem to be in painjust a bad sore throat and fatigue and muscle aches for a few days, Dr. Craig Spencer, emergency room doctor in New York, said Monday in a Twitter thread.
People who have had two injections have slightly more severe symptoms.
“More tired. No fever. No coughing. A little more miserable overall,” he wrote.
Those who only had one injection, he said, fared less well, feeling horrible for several days: “Not great, but not in danger of death.”
Almost everyone who needs to be admitted to hospital for COVID-19 are not vaccinated, said Spencer, who works at New York-Presbyterian / Columbia University Medical Center: “Anyone who suffers from profound shortness of breath. breathe regularly. “
Doctors from other hospitals corroborated his account. People who are vaccinated simply have fewer symptoms and are sick for shorter periods of time, several said.
The only exception are those whose immune system are weak, perhaps from medication or old age.
“The immunocompromised and particularly fragile people – here we have to be careful,” said Dr Rajesh Gandhi, infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “This is a large group who, despite the vaccination, have not been fully protected.”
The number of patients in Mass. General has more than doubled in the past two weeks, from around 40 to 45 with COVID-19 during the Delta Wave to now more than 100 as the omicron has taken over, Gandhi said. Phone calls to the hospital have also skyrocketed, with more than 500 requests for information over the Christmas weekend, he said, calling it “an unprecedented number”.
Omicron has also made it more difficult to help people stay out of the hospital, Gandhi said. Two of the three monoclonal antibodies routinely given to people at high risk of severe disease no longer work against omicron, while a third, sotrovimab, is insufficient.
Two antiviral pills, Paxlovid and molnupiravir, cleared by the Food and Drug Administration last week, are much easier to give and could make a profound difference in the pandemic, Gandhi said. But they are not yet widely available and he does not have any to offer.
Although researchers believe that omicron may be less dangerous than previous variants, because it is so contagious, it can still cause as many or more people to be in hospital, said Jeremy Luban, infectious disease expert at the UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.
It means a throwback to the days of trying to “flatten the curve” to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed, said Luban and Jacob Lemieux, an infectious disease expert at Mass. General, who joined Gandhi and other researchers in Massachusetts on a conference call with reporters. Monday afternoon.
“We need to keep these two realities of omicron in mind as we think about how to move forward,” said Lemieux. “The picture is not totally dark. With these new drugs… it really suggests that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we have to go through the tunnel, and the tunnel is long, and it is dark for them. next few weeks at least. “
By moving so fast and infecting so many people, hopefully less seriously, could omicron immunize many people and help hasten the end of the pandemic?
Unfortunately, probably not.
“The idea of a less pathogenic virus that could instill protective cross-protective immunity without causing long COVID would certainly be a godsend,” said Dr. Bruce Walker, founding director of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, which focuses on immunology. . “I don’t think any of us are ready to say that omicron is. In fact, I think it’s likely not.”
Contribution: Mike Stucka
Contact Karen Weintraub at email@example.com.
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