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Omicron appears to be less severe than delta but can still cause serious illness

COVID-19 omicron
Posted at 4:55 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 17:30:24-05

(WXYZ) — Coronavirus cases continue to surge and Michigan’s hospitalizations numbers have hit a new pandemic high.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service reported 44,524 new cases of COVID-19 over a three-day period, 56 deaths new deaths and 4,580 patients hospitalized on Monday.

Clinical data suggests that omicron is less serious than delta, so why are numbers climbing so quickly?

It’s sobering to see how quickly our case numbers are rising. I think too many people believe that omicron is mild. And when people hear the word mild they think, oh, they’ll be some discomfort but overall, it won’t be a big deal. But you can get sick and feel real crummy with symptoms like fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, sore throat, even shortness of breath.

Now when you compare omicron to delta, it does appear to be less severe when looking at how it affects the lungs. And here’s why: Omicron prefers to infect the upper respiratory tract, whereas delta targets the lungs, which can lead to breathing problems that can be fatal.

But despite this, omicron can still cause severe disease that leads to hospitalization and death, especially for those who are unvaccinated. And it can be especially nasty to folks who are older and those whose health is not great to begin with. And because omicron is so infectious, our hospitals' numbers are rising and staff are getting sick. Unfortunately, this can lead to additional deaths because the case numbers are so high.

A new study has found T cells from the common cold may help protect people from COVID-19. The scientists involved suggest that future vaccines could copy this type of protection.

T cells are my favorite immune cell. I like to call them your immune cell Jedi’s because just like the Jedi’s in “Star Wars,” T-cells can find, attack and destroy the bad guys. In this case, they kill infected cells.

Now, this new study comes from Imperial College London, which is a public research university in the United Kingdom. The study was small with about 52 people. What the researchers did was look at the level of T cells in people who didn’t develop COVID-19, even though other people in the same household were infected. And what they found was that high levels of T cells that were generated from previous common cold infections provided protection from COVID-19, meaning these people did not get infected.

So how might this lead to new vaccines? Well, our current vaccines target the spike protein on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The spike protein is what changes when it mutates, whereas T cells target internal proteins, which do not mutate as often as the spike protein does. So, new vaccines that target the internal proteins could potentially provide better protection in the long run.

But once again, I will remind everyone to get vaccinated and then boosted. This is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against this virus.