New research finds that Omicron longs nearly half the risk of COVID as Delta

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The Omicron variant, although much more contagious than the Delta strain, is still widespread in the US but is less likely to cause long-term COVID than Delta, according to a new study.

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Omicron variant, although much more contagious than the Delta strain, is still widespread in the US but is less likely to cause long-term COVID than Delta, according to a new study.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

According to the first large-scale study published on the long-term risks posed by Omicron, the Omicron variant is much less likely to cause long-term COVID than Delta.

But about 5% of people who catch Omicron experience fatigue, brain fog, headaches, heart problems, or other health problems for at least a month after contracting it, the study found.

While some researchers found the results reassuring, others say the results are alarming given that so many people have contracted Omicron and clearly remain at risk even after being vaccinated.

“It’s scary,” said Dr., an immunobiologist at the Yale School of Medicine. Akiko Iwasaki, who has long studied COVID but was not involved in the new research.

“People assume that because Omicron is mild, we just catch it and put an end to it,” says Iwasaki.

Results released Thursday the lancetcome from researchers at King’s College London who are tracking thousands of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus to determine the risk of prolonged COVID from different species.

“The fundamental question we’re trying to answer is, ‘Is COVID that prevalent over the long term… in the Delta Period?’ [as it is] In the omicron period?’” says Dr. Claire Steves, who helped conduct the research. “‘Given the different forms, what is the risk of contracting COVID in the long term?'”

The researchers compared 56,03 people from December 20, 2021 to March 9, 2022 with 41,361 people who had contracted Delta between June 1, 2021 and November 27, 2021 and tracked their symptoms with a special . Application.

Researchers found that a month later, those who got Omicron were almost half as likely to have health problems as those who got Delta.

“Fortunately, the Omicron version has a much lower risk of catching COVID for a long time than the Delta version,” Steve told NPR in an interview. “That’s great news, isn’t it?”

This is particularly good news as Omicron is so contagious that it has infected large numbers of people incredibly quickly. If the risk had been equal to or greater than the delta, the number of people ending up with prolonged COVID would have exploded.

The findings agree with a small analysis recently published by the UK government.

However, the low risk doesn’t mean people shouldn’t worry about COVID in the long run, O’Micron, Steve, and others agree. According to the study, Omicron has a 4.4% chance of contracting long-term COVID, compared to about 10.8% for Delta.

“The caveat is that the Omicron variant has spread very quickly through our population and has therefore affected a very large number of people. Therefore, the absolute total number of people known to have acquired COVID for a long period of time will unfortunately continue to increase,” says Steves. “So this is certainly not the time to scale back services for the protracted COVID.”

But for each individual, the results show that the risk of both becoming seriously ill and developing persistent symptoms is decreasing.

The study didn’t explain why Omicron might pose a lower risk of COVID over the long term. But Steve and others say it makes sense that omicron causes less common, lingering symptoms because it doesn’t make humans as sick as deltas.

“Because of this low severity of the disease, and also because it seems a bit more superficial in terms of the disease… it affects us less in terms of the severity of our immune response,” says Steves. “And so it reduces the likelihood of a prolonged COVID.”

Other researchers say these results need to be confirmed with additional research.

“You saw someone on this app reporting any symptoms. They have never really examined these patients anywhere in the clinic or collected any objective data about them,” Dr. Michael Sneller, who has long studied COVID at the National Institutes of Health. ,

But Sneller says if Omicron is less likely to cause long-term COVID, it won’t surprise him because it causes less serious illness.

Some researchers hope the results will correct the misconception that people don’t have to worry about COVID for long since Omicron.

“We say, you know, ‘You can take your masks off on the plane. You no longer need to be vaccinated to enter restaurants.” All of these policy decisions will increase the chances of people contracting COVID, while the chance of a serious chronic illness is still at 5%,” says Dr. David Putrino, a longtime COVID-19 patient at Mount Sinai in New York City. “It’s short-sighted and will cause very long-term disabilities that didn’t have to exist.”

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