The fast-spreading Omicron variant, which causes milder illness than previous versions of the coronavirus, has fueled the idea that COVID-19 is less risky than in the past.
In which case, some people ask, why is there so much effort right now to avoid getting infected, because everyone will sooner or later be exposed to the virus?
Here’s why experts say it’s not the time to get complacent about O’Miron:
you can still be very sick
Research has indicated that omicrons may have a higher chance of leading to an asymptomatic case of COVID-19 than earlier variants. For those who do have symptoms, a high proportion experience a very mild illness, such as a sore throat or runny nose, without difficulty breathing like earlier infections.
But the extraordinary prevalence of omicrons in many countries means more people in absolute numbers will experience serious illness. In particular, recent data from Italy and Germany show that people who have not been vaccinated are far more vulnerable to hospitalization, intensive care, and death.
“I agree that sooner or later everyone will be exposed, but later it will be better,” said Michel Nusenzweig, a virus expert at Rockefeller University. “Why? Because later we will have better and more available drugs and better vaccines.”
you can infect others
Akiko Iwasaki, who studies viral immunology at Yale University, said you may only be mildly ill, but you can pass the virus on to someone else at risk of serious illness, even if you have antibodies from a prior infection or vaccination. .
Long-term effects of OMICRON are unknown
Infections with chronic forms of the coronavirus, including mild infections and “success” cases after vaccination, sometimes cause a lingering, debilitating long-lasting COVID syndrome. Iwasaki said, “We don’t have any data yet on what proportion of infections with Omicron … end up with long-term COVID.” “Those who consider Omicron to be ‘mild’ are putting themselves at risk of a debilitating disease that can persist for months or even years.”
It is also unclear whether Omicron would have the “silent” effects seen with the earlier variants, such as self-attacking antibodies, loss of spermatozoa and changes in insulin-producing cells.
Medicines are in short supply
Omicron treatments are so limited that doctors must ration them. Two of the three antibody drugs used during the last COVID-19 waves are ineffective against this type. Sotrovimab, a third from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), is in short supply, as is a new oral antiviral treatment called Paxlovid from Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N), which appears to be effective against Omicron. If you do get sick, you may not have access to treatment.
filling the hospital
David Ho, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, said, “In fully vaccinated and raised individuals without underlying medical conditions, Omicron “won’t do much harm.” Still, the fewer infections, the better, especially now. “When hospitals are already overwhelmed, and the peak of the omicron wave is yet to come” for most of the United States, Ho said.
Due to the record number of infected patients, hospitals have had to postpone elective surgeries and cancer treatments. And during the last boom, overwhelmed hospitals have been unable to properly treat other emergencies like heart attacks.
More transitions means more new versions
Omicron is the fifth highly significant variant of the original SARS-CoV-2, and it remains to be seen whether the virus’s ability to mutate will be further slowed.
Higher infection rates also give the virus more opportunities to mutate, and there is no guarantee that a new version of the coronavirus will be more benign than its predecessors. “SARS-CoV-2 has surprised us in many different ways over the past two years, and we have no way of predicting the evolutionary trajectory of this virus,” Ho said.