Virus Expert Just Gave This "Important" Omicron Update
COVID cases are declining in the United States, but overseas there's a major uptick and experts reveal there's a new dominant variant that could cause another surge here. It's unclear if the wave will be as severe as the last one we recently experienced, but there are ways to help avoid getting sick according to doctors we spoke with. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to experts who explain what to know about Omicron right now and how to help stay healthy. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Omicron's Two Major Strains
Dr. William Lang, Medical Director, WorldClinic states, "Omicron comprises two major circulating strains and two minor strains. Together the two major strains account for 99+% of COVID in most areas, with BA2 replacing BA1 at a moderate pace. The strains all act about the same and vaccines/prior infections have about the same efficacy in being protective against all omicron, but BA2 is variously described as 30-80% more infectious than BA1, which is why it is becoming predominant."
Omicron BA-2 is the Dominant Strain
Hannah Newman, the director of infection prevention at Lenox Hill Hospital reveals, "Cases have increased in the UK and EU due to the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant, and deaths have drastically increased in Hong Kong. BA.2 is the dominant strain in the United States now, and wastewater surveillance shows an uptick in positivity, which is a good indicator of upcoming increases in cases."
BA-2 is More Contagious than BA-1
Dr. Vivek Cherian, a Chicago based internal medicine physician says, "The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron accounts for over half of new U.S. coronavirus cases, and is now the dominant strain in this country. Its rapid growth is attributed at least in part to its mutations for the spike protein on the virus's surface, which are not found in BA.1. While BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1, the good news is that it has not been shown to cause more severe illness and vaccines continue to offer a high degree of protection from severe disease, and even more so if you've had a booster."
The Vaccine and Booster Provide Protection from New Variants
Newman explains, "The surge around the holiday season may actually help to subdue a new wave by adding additional protection from many recent infections. Though I don't want to misconstrue- vaccination provides more uniform and reliable protection than natural infection. If you are not up-to-date and are eligible for the vaccination and/or booster, now is the time to do so while we are in a lull so that you build immunity before cases rise. A third booster is extremely effective against severe outcomes, but 70% of the country has booster rates of less than 50%. Areas where vaccination and boosters are low or who weren't hit hard by BA.1 could be more at risk for being affected by BA.2."
Warmer Months Means Lower Cases
Newman shares, "I also take some comfort in knowing that we are entering warmer months which are more conducive to outdoor events and activities. We know that ventilation plays a large role in viral transmission, and the more we can do to open doors and windows and have events outdoors, the less likely for transmission and superspreader events.I think that we will need to keep a close eye to see how exactly this affects the US, but perhaps our experience could look more like a plateau rather than a sharp increase. I really think that our future depends on the actions that we take right now."
How To Stay Healthy
Dr. Sunjya Schweig, MD, Founder and President of the California Center for Functional Medicine shares, "In addition to vaccination and receiving a booster shot, there are ways that people can potentially protect themselves through healthy lifestyle and dietary supplements. Some key recommendations include:
- Eating a whole foods diet rich in nutrient dense proteins, with as many different vegetables as possible
- Lowering or avoiding sugar and alcohol can help to lower the risk of inflammation in the body and optimize immune function
- Getting adequate sleep and adopting healthy exercise patterns can also help modulate inflammation and immune function
- Adequate hydration is also important for optimal function and recovery from illness. Aim to drink at least ½ your body weight ounces of water daily. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, aim for 75 ounces of water per day and more if you sweat while exercising or drink alcohol or caffeine, which can act as diuretics.
From a dietary supplement point of view, there are many supplements that can help modulate a variety of inflammatory pathways such as NRF2 and NF Kappa B, such as:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D (goal blood level around 50-60)
- Vitamin A (cod liver oil is a good source of Vit D and Vit A)
- Glutathione and its precursor NAC and or sulforaphane
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Curcurmin (turmeric)
Note that many of these can be obtained through dietary intake."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.