Virus Expert Says What to Worry About Now
As we enter the third year of the pandemic, COVID isn't slowing down and researchers are still learning about the virus that continues to create global chaos. As scientists race to come up with answers we don't have yet, COVID keeps mutating, causing more deaths and illnesses worldwide. The positive news is the vaccine is working and has saved countless lives, but there's still many things experts are still worried about. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to a couple of experts who explained what they're concerned about and why. 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 Fast Infection Rate
Erica Susky, an Infection Control Practitioner (ICP) in hospital epidemiology says, "The voracity with which Omicron is spreading; a lot of people are not getting very ill with Omicron but a very large number of people are becoming newly infected. A small proportion of an immense number of new SARS-CoV-2 infections are still enough to put a strain on already overburdened healthcare systems."
People Not Vaccinated
Robert G. Lahita MD, Ph.D. ("Dr. Bob"), Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health and author of Immunity Strong states, "The most concerning thing right now is how many people are still unvaccinated. It's critical that every person get vaccinated and boosted against this dangerous and deadly virus."
Strain on Healthcare
"Where I am from, we are again seeing an immense strain on the healthcare system; many new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 and many COVID-19 outbreaks," Susky reveals. "A small proportion of people are getting seriously ill, but there are such a large number of infections and spread in the community that even this small proportion is still becoming a challenge for our healthcare system."
With More People Vaccinated and Boosted, Why is COVID Still Spreading?
According to Susky, "Omicron, to date, is the variant of concern with the most accumulated mutations. It has similar mutations seen in past variants of concern, such as Alpha and Delta, that are already known to play roles in transmissibility and immune escape from vaccines and it has more mutations with unknown function. A large number of mutations are located in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, this is the protein that was used to create the current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. The immune system may not recognize a spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 the more it will differ from the protein used to create the vaccine."
Dr. Bob adds, "Omicron is still infecting people even if they are vaccinated, so it is still spreading. Omicron is a variant that has a lot of mutations. The vaccine does not mean you will never get sick. It is meant to keep you out of the hospital and keep you from dying if you do get the virus."
Getting Boosters Every Year
Dr. Bob says, "It is likely we will need a yearly Covid booster like the flu shot. The Covid virus will continue to mutate." Susky adds, "At this point in time, it is difficult to say. If the virus becomes endemic and less severe, boosters may not be needed or may only be needed in high-risk groups like an influenza vaccine. If SARS-CoV-2 continues to mutate and put burdens on healthcare, boosters are likely still needed as vaccine memory does fade in a few months as well as the immune memory from having a SARS-CoV-2 infection."
COVID is Here to Stay
According to Susky, "It is evident that SARS-CoV-2 is excellent at human-to-human transmission, transmission cannot be ceased with any of our current public health measures, and will continue to circulate likely indefinitely. We will have to learn to live with it as it will likely not go away."
Dr. Bob agrees. "Yes, I predict Covid will be here to stay; however, I expect by 2023 we won't have all these restrictions or need to wear masks."
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.
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