The situation is changing so fast with the Omicron version that it’s hard to know where things stand.
Sometimes the news sounds ominous, such as when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said stress rose from 0.7 percent to 73 percent in the US in just two weeks.
Other times the news appears to be encouraging, such as when South African officials observed that Omicron cases appear to be declining almost as dramatically as they had increased.
How can we tell what is really happening? What indicators will reveal the true strengths of the version?
And when do we know if Omicron represents a setback in the pandemic, a disaster or an outright disaster?
Here’s what to see.
What could be worse than that?
We can learn that in addition to being about 22 times more transmissible than the original coronavirus strain from Wuhan, China, Omicron causes more severe disease, destroys immunity provided by vaccines or a prior infection, and Resistant to existing treatments.
What about the best-case scenario?
This will happen if most or all of the people who are infected with Omicron infection have little or no disease. Even with high transmission rates and a large number of “breakthrough” cases, a variant that is little more than a sniffle or a few days of fatigue may be welcomed as the onset of endemicity – a A situation in which the virus lives among us indefinitely. And it could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
Is it a possibility?
For this best-case scenario to materialize, Omicron will need to break the bad habit of the coronavirus causing serious illness and death in the elderly or medically critical. It also has to stop causing “Long COVID” – a mysterious condition characterized by an array of lingering symptoms such as exercise intolerance, sleeping difficulties and brain fog – in more than half of people who have cleared the virus.
It would also be good, if an infection elicits at least a few months’ worth of immunity, or provides long-term immunity after multiple infections. For a few decades, infants, senior citizens and people with high-risk medical conditions could be vaccinated to prevent severe cases of COVID-19. But ultimately, while babies will continue to receive the short-term protection of vaccines, most people’s year-round exposure to the virus will allow them to cope with infection without worry.
It is basically mankind’s truce with four other coronaviruses, causing what we call the common cold.
What should we see?
Some parts of the puzzle are beginning to be filled. Researchers at Imperial College London have estimated that the Omicron is 5.4 times more likely to be re-infected than the delta version. This means that the effect of any negative trend will be amplified.
How bad it can get will depend on where the next bits of information are located. It is important to find out who infects Omicron and in whom it causes serious illness or death.
In addition, knowing when — and for how long — people infected with Omicron are contagious is critical to keeping the strained healthcare sector from becoming overwhelmed, said Dr., dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Peter Hotez said.
When will we know?
The next two to eight weeks will be critical, said epidemiologist Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota. He added that with its transmission superpowers, Omicron would probably cause a “national blizzard” of cases. No area is likely to be spared, as Omicron is just too good at spreading.
How do we know if Omicron makes people sick?
In the United States, hospitalization is the currency by which disease severity is most often judged. Treatment in the hospital ranges from routine to critical care, and the patient’s journey is usually well documented compared to getting sick at home.
But epidemiologists have called hospitalization a “lagging indicator” of virus virulence. Assuming that multiple mutations of the omicron have not changed the basic pattern of attack of the coronavirus, it usually takes a week or two before symptoms first appear long enough for a COVID-19 patient to be hospitalized. appear to be ill. Death usually occurs within 30 days, although many patients live longer.
The trend that will begin to tell the story of Omicron’s virus is a ratio. Researchers will count the number of new Omicron infections reported on Day X and compare it to the number of Omicron hospitalizations approximately two weeks later. They will also calculate the proportion of new cases reported on Day X to COVID-19 deaths due to Omicron three to four weeks later.
“If the ratio changes we’ll know there’s a problem,” Hotez said.
One thing to note: If Omicron causes asymptomatic infection or extremely mild disease compared to previous strains, and those patients are not tested, it could throw off the count in a way that makes people sick. Reduces the ability of omicron to
What is happening abroad, and what can that tell us?
The experience of other countries where Omicron has been circulating for a long time may provide early clues as to what we may be in for. But differing health care systems, vaccination status and population demographics make comparisons incomplete.
This week, the World Health Organization reported that hospitalizations continued to rise in South Africa and the United Kingdom, and said it was “possible” that their health systems would be overwhelmed. But the WHO also noted that data on the clinical severity of Omicron infection “is still limited.”
Earlier data from South Africa suggests that Omicron infections may cause milder illness and result in less need for supplemental oxygen and hospitalization. And a preliminary study released Wednesday on the science-sharing site MedRxiv found that vaccinated South African health workers who had infections linked to Omicron were less likely to need intensive hospital care than those who had success. Infections were caused by delta or beta variants.
The UK’s Health Protection Agency this week confirmed 45,145 cases of omicron in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with 129 hospitalizations and 14 deaths possibly caused by the new strain. But cases could easily be three times higher, the agency acknowledged. Uncertainty about exactly how many omicron cases there are makes it difficult to determine a clear proportion of cases requiring hospitalization.
What would it mean if Omicron made different groups of people sick?
Are men still slightly more likely to die than women? Is COVID-19 still a disease most likely to cause illness and death in elderly people? Are asymptomatic infections still typical in children? In the coming weeks and months, researchers will scour medical records and revisit existing groups of study participants to find answers to such questions.
They will also look at changes in the way omicron infections work to see if hallmark symptoms such as runaway inflammation, blood clotting abnormalities and lung damage are key features of COVID-19. These findings may point to important factors that make some people more vulnerable to Omicron, and thus a greater need for protection from vaccines.
What about children?
South African researchers quickly reported that children appeared to be more likely to be hospitalized when infected with Omicron – a trend that would depart from previous forms, and would be watched closely.
If younger patients are less likely to become generally ill, it will be important to establish whether they will still remain effective virus spreaders.
Will Vaccines Still Work?
Lab tests on Omicron have already indicated that the blood serum of vaccinated people is less able to stop the virus from invading cells. But real-world data will be needed to confirm and extrapolate those laboratory findings.
If people who have been vaccinated and increased, end up dying in hospitals, that would be serious evidence that vaccine protection has been seriously undermined. So far, the CDC says that two doses of the mRNA vaccine reduce the risk of serious disease with Omicron. But officials insist that adding a booster shot would strengthen that protection, and they are urging vaccinated Americans to get one if they are eligible.
Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times