Virus Experts Warn This Could Happen Next
It's been two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and it looks like the virus is here to stay for the time being, according to experts. While COVID has proven to be unpredictable and hard to pinpoint what will happen next, one thing researchers can agree on is that the virus will keep mutating and creating more variants. "COVID is a virus that will continue to mutate and spread throughout the U.S.; how severe each variant and sub-variant will be remains unclear, which is why it's important to continue tracking numbers in your area and following the guidance of health experts in order to reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID. The good news is that people can be prepared using tools available today – from masks to at-home rapid tests," Dr. Mary Rodgers, principal scientist at Abbott tells Eat This, Not That! Health. We talked to several COVID experts who gave their take on the pandemic and what could happen next. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
BA.2 is Highly Contagious
Dr. Vivek Cherian, a Chicago based internal medicine physician says, "The new omicron strain (BA.2) is about 50 percent more transmissible than the first omicron strain but it does not appear to cause more severe illness or evade immune responses from vaccination or a previous infection. One thing we've learned about this pandemic is that it is extremely challenging to predict the future with the countless curveballs that have come our way. That being said, I think it's less likely we will see a surge from the BA.2 variant. Also best to reiterate that the most tried and true manner (and easiest for that matter!) to prevent a surge or future surges is to get people vaccinated and boosted."
Prepared for the Worst
Dr. William Holubek, Chief Medical Officer, University Hospital reveals, "We are really in a wait and watch while being "prepared for the worst" state. We continue to monitor COVID activity in the region and our hospital, while being prepared for a potential surge and continue to encourage up-to-date vaccination and follow CDC recommendations."
Expect More Evolution Changes with COVID
Erica Susky, an Infection Control Practitioner (ICP) in hospital epidemiology says, "As public health restrictions are easing in many places, along with a more transmissible sub-lineage of Omicron emerging in higher numbers (BA.2), another wave of COVID-19 is likely to occur in the coming weeks. This may vary from region to region, what will matter is that less people get serious illness and if the area's healthcare system can manage the new number of cases. SARS-CoV-2, like other RNA viruses, has shown the ability to mutate and recombine. In the coming months, one would expect further evolution and changes in SARS-CoV-2. From past epidemics, pathogen evolution tends towards the average, or less virulence. A virus that kills less hosts and spreads more easily has a competitive advantage from an evolutionary perspective. This seems to be what is happening with Omicron."
Surge Could be Coming
Dr. William Lang, Medical Director, WorldClinic states, "There is a reasonable chance that we will see in the US a brief omicron-BA2-driven mini-wave as they have been seeing in the UK and Europe. New York, which has been our bellwether, has had two weeks of pretty steady case increases, but nowhere near the level seen in the UK. I think that because the BA.2 sub-variant is hitting us as spring is arising, the better weather (and people not being cooped up) is going to mitigate the increases we see. In any event, even if we do see a significant increase incases, it is not likely that we will see major increases in hospitalizations or deaths. The number of people who have immunity from recent cases, plus the number with vaccine mediated immunity, together with the better availability of antivirals and monoclonal antibodies will limit the proportion of severe cases. I don't see us going back into restrictions, although people with risk factors may want to return to careful mask wearing in crowded locations."
COVID Is Here to Stay for a Long Time
Board certified internist Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, and bestselling author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! explains, "Simple measures such as sleep, exercise, good diet and multivitamin, and hydration can leave you much much safer. Although the virus, just like the common cold which is its cousin, is likely to be with us for a long long time, it is likely to also become less of a concern once we have had the initial infection. The first infection is the riskiest for most of these kinds of viruses. Then your body learns tricks to kill the infection more quickly during future infections, before they can do any real harm."
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.