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Rapid infection rate of omicron COVID variant is causing concern as UK braces for 1 million cases

Posted at 3:18 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 17:23:59-05

(WXYZ) — Now that the first case of Omicron has been detected in Michigan, health experts are concerned that the new coronavirus variant could overwhelm hospitals already stretched thin by the Delta variant.

At the moment, it’s looking like Omicron could edge out Delta. Now, why do I say that? We need to look at what’s happening in the United Kingdom. Health officials there say that Omicron cases are doubling every two to three days. And if the growth rate continues at this pace, in just two to four weeks' time, 50% of the virus cases will be caused by Omicron.

The trajectory of this variant is so steep right now, the United Kingdom is forewarning that 1 million residents could be infected by the end of December. Now, I know that sounds alarming. Especially since Michigan has its first Omicron case – and this new variant has been found in at least 23 other states. But only time and more data will tell if Omicron will outcompete Delta. But the quick growth rate we’re seeing in the UK certainly indicates that it’s possible.

The World Health Organization stresses that it’s too soon to draw any conclusions. But if we’re looking at the preliminary evidence, it still suggests that Omicron is causing milder illness.

Now, a lot of data is coming from South African scientists. And the population in that country tends to be younger - which we all know that younger people tend to do better, overall, when infected. Having said that, hospital admissions are starting to rise in South Africa. However, I’m hearing that this is due to the sheer number of people getting infected. And not because the new variant is leading to more severe illness. Again, more data is needed, especially from here in the US.

Now, many people are concerned about the hospitals filling up here in Michigan. And rightly so. Plenty of my patients have asked me what they can do to help the doctors and staff? And here’s what I tell them. Get fully vaccinated. And then get boosted.

According to a new study, those who get boosted are 90% less likely to die from Delta when compared to people who only received the initial two-dose vaccine. Remember, Delta is still the reigning variant. And people can end up hospitalized and die because of it.

If Omicron turns out to be a mild variant, it will continue to evolve because that’s what viruses do. And then what happens if the virus evolves into a strain that is deadlier? To me, the best protection is our vaccines. And to stop people from getting infected in the first place.

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