Has the United States reached the fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic? Cases are surging across the U.S. as experts point to Omicron as it fuels another relentless wave of cases. The fast-spreading Omicron variant is fueling major concerns as the U.S. healthcare system remains at the brink of collapse.
The surge of cases comes less than three weeks after the Omicron variant was first detected in the U.S. Now, the highly infectious variant accounts for nearly 75% of all cases.
“There’s nothing that will overwhelm a hospital more than exponential growth of a viral contagion,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge told Nola.com. “If it puts 1% of people in the hospital, but it has exponential growth to it, than that is like just a wave crashing down on your hospital all at once, and it will overwhelm the system and there will be collateral damage that we can’t prevent.”
How severe is Omicron? Experts say it’s no less severe than Delta.
It will take further research to confirm, but experts say Omicron infections appear no less severe than the Delta variant of COVID-19. The studies looked at data from the United Kingdom, but have not yet been peer reviewed.
Researchers from the Imperial College London compared over 11,000 people with confirmed or likely cases of Omicron — finding that there is ‘no evidence’ of Omicron having lower severity than Delta. It was measured by the promotion of people testing positive who report symptoms, as well as those cases seeking hospital care after infection.
Will the COVID vaccine work against Omicron? What about booster doses?
Yes. Research out of the UK shows that vaccine efficacy against Omicron ranged from 0% to 20% after two doses, and 55% to 80% after a booster. It also estimated that the odds of reinfection with Omicron are 5.4 times greater than with Delta.
Does Omicron have any different long-term effects? Experts say sperm quality is impaired for months after infection.
Fertility and Sterility reported earlier this week that in a small study sperm counts were reduced by 37% in those who were infected by Omicron. The average age of those studied was 35, according to Reuters.
“Couples with a desire for pregnancy should be warned that sperm quality after COVID-19 infection can be suboptimal,” researchers concluded. “The estimated recovery time is 3 months, but further follow-up studies are under way to confirm this and to determine if permanent damage occurred in a minority of men.”
There are also the traditional long-term side effects of COVID-19 infection, which remain a major concern for health experts across the board.
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