Ask Dr. Nandi: What the current Omicron variants are and the risks

delta variant mixed messaging
Posted at 3:45 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 17:20:59-04

(WXYZ) — A total of 16 counties in Michigan are now in the CDC’s high-risk category for COVID-19, which includes most metro Detroit counties - Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, and St. Clair.

People in those counties are advised once again to wear masks while indoors in public places.

The CDC is tracking 4 of Omicron’s sublineages – BA.2, BA.2.12.1. BA.1.1 and the original omicron variant B.1.1.529. Now the latter two have almost disappeared. Whereas BA.2 gained a lot of ground and is now the most dominant variant with 56.4% of cases nationwide. However, hot on its heels is BA.2.12.1 – accounting for 42.6% of cases.

Now, patients ask me questions like, “are there any differences between these variants”?

Well, the key difference is transmissibility. BA.2 was estimated to be about 50% more transmissible than the original omicron. And the newer Omciron BA.2.12.1 variant has been estimated to be 23 to 27 percent faster than BA.2. So no surprise that our cases are rising.

As for risks, health experts are not expecting BA.2.12.1 to be more severe than BA.2. However, there are ongoing studies that may discover differences later down the road. Right now, the main symptoms are similar to having a bad cold – so runny nose, coughing, body aches, and fatigue.

Having said that, we can’t forget that people are still dying from COVID. There are zero guarantees that the infection will be mild. Especially for the people who are unvaccinated. And those who are at higher risk due to older age or underlying health issues.

823 people were hospitalized as of Wednesday. That’s a 90% increase from a month ago. And Michigan is expected to follow in the footsteps of the Northeast, which means we’ll likely see cases continue to rise over the next two weeks.

So, it’s important that people who are at high risk know that there are treatment options. The antiviral drug Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from the virus. But it has to be taken as soon as possible - within 5 days of symptom onset. Also, monoclonal antibody therapy is another option for vulnerable folks. So if you are at high risk, talk to your doctor about these treatment options to see if you’re a candidate should you get infected.

Now, if you live in the Metro Detroit area – which as mentioned is now under high-risk status - please consider wearing a mask when indoors. Also, please get tested if you develop symptoms – even if they’re mild. Just because the infection may be mild for you, doesn’t mean it’ll be mild for everyone. And of course, please get vaccinated and boosted when you can. Model projections have shown the benefit of COVID-19 vaccines – they’ve saved millions of lives and averted tens of millions of infections. I’m vaccinated and boosted, and my children are vaccinated. They are safe, effective, and help prevent the spread and severe illness.

On the next Dr. Nandi Show, are your genes really your destiny? Not according to modern science! Joining Dr. Nandi, MD is Dirty Genes author Dr. Ben Lynch. He explains how it’s possible to clean up our genes to achieve greater health. Plus a formerly homeless teen, who became a United Nations Global Ambassador, is living proof that our genes don’t have to limit us. You won’t want to miss this discussion with activist and social entrepreneur, Bryant McGill. Tune in this Saturday, May 14th at 1 pm.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.