The Omicron variant

What you need to know about the fast-spreading disease

In December the CDC reported the first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in the United States, now two months later experts are hopeful that the variant infection rate will soon peak.

The CDC reports that 99.5% of all current COVID cases in the United States are due to the Omicron variant.

As reported by ABC, American immunologist, Dr. Fauci, who is the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious disease is hopeful that Omicron will peak by mid-February.

Dr. Michael Klepser, a Ferris pharmacy professor specializes in infectious diseases and point of care diagnostics was willing to give some insight regarding this variant and the future of COVID-19 in the United States.

“Omicron appears to be more easily transmitted than previous variants; however, it does look like it may produce less severe symptoms.  Epidemiologists compare the transmissibility to that of the measles,” Klepser wrote in an email.

While this is certainly good news in some regards, Klepser noted that because of the high transmissibility more people are going to get infected which inevitably means the number of very sick people has gone up even if the proportion of those with severe illness is lower.

Kelpser also explained that this variant appears to have changes in its spike proteins. These changes allow it to evade immune protection that people can have through previous infection or immunization. He added that those who are vaccinated still are better protected against the viral surge than those who are unvaccinated.

“Remember, immunization is not like putting a bubble around yourself.  Even if you are vaccinated, if you are exposed to the virus, you may still get infected.  However, those who are vaccinated are typically better at clearing the virus,” Klepser wrote.

Kelpser highlighted the widespread infection coupled with the variants ability to evade immunity as reasons for there to be a risk of breakthrough infection.

“It is important to note that breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals are typically less severe than illness among unvaccinated individuals,” Klepser wrote.

According to the New York Times Coronavirus Tracker cases in Mecosta County are still extremely high and currently 41% of the total population in Mecosta are fully vaccinated.

Looking forward, Klepser explained that immunity against SARS-CoV-2 tends to wane over time which will make herd immunity challenging to accomplish.

“What we hope for is that the variants become less virulent as we are seeing with Omicron.  We hope that most people will have some immunity and subsequently not get severe symptoms or require hospitalization.  Hopefully, SARS-CoV-2 will eventually evolve into a coronavirus similar to those that cause the common cold,” wrote Klepser.

Klepser also added that it will be likely that we will need COVID booster shots like the yearly Influenza vaccine.