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Omicron Variant: Still a Risk for Long COVID

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The first case of the new Omicron variant was discovered in the United States on December 1, 2021. Since then the number of new COVID cases per day has soared above 500,000 a day. The new case numbers have jumped to all-time highs across the country, putting a major strain on the healthcare system. However, many are encouraged by the fact that this new SARS-CoV-2 strain seems to cause less severe cases of COVID. In fact, people who catch Omicron are 70% less likely to develop a severe infection than those who caught Delta. However, Omicron is more than four times more transmissible than Delta.

This means that, statistically speaking, more people will get sick. In addition, more people are likely to experience severe disease due to Omicron than Delta.  Doctors and researchers believe the Omicron variant may mean a jump in the number of people diagnosed with Long COVID.

Many Omicron Cases Less Severe or Asymptomatic

Compared to previous variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, such as Delta, Omicron is much more transmissible. It is affecting nearly everyone it encounters, including the vaccinated. The good news, however, is that many of these new COVID cases are less severe. In fact, many people have no symptoms at all. While this means many people infected will not experience severe sickness, it does mean many more people will become COVID-19-positive. Unfortunately, once the SARS-CoV-2 virus is in your body, despite minimal symptoms, you have a risk of developing Long COVID.

Risk of Long COVID Still a Reality with Omicron

While the Omicron variant may cause milder symptoms than those of previous variants, the risk for Long COVID remains. In an interview with Spectrum News, Dr. Anthony Fauci stated, “Long COVID can happen no matter what virus variant occurs. There’s no evidence that there’s any difference between Delta or Beta or now Omicron.” Fauci also went on to say that from 10 to 30 plus percent of all those with positive COVID cases can go on to have persistent symptoms. This Long COVID can last for months or years, as many Long COVID patients still suffering had their initial infection in the first wave of the pandemic.

Omicron Greatly Increases COVID Positivity Rates Across the World

As of January 12, 2022, the CDC reported over 63 million positive COVID-19 cases in the United States, with over one million cases reported on January 10th alone. The worldwide case count on the same day is over 317 million. The case numbers are alarming when we consider the risk of Long COVID.

Currently, the estimates are that 10-30% of all positive COVID cases will develop Long COVID. If we look at the current case counts, we can see that the Omicron variant is likely to cause a dramatic jump in the number of individuals diagnosed with Long COVID. In fact, based on these current numbers, we could be looking at 19 million Americans diagnosed with Long COVID, and the numbers are still growing.

The Focus Must Now Be on Helping Patients Navigate Long COVID

While the COVID pandemic and the spread of the virus have been the focus of researchers, physicians, and the media for over two years now, we must now consider Long COVID to understand how detrimental the long-term effects of the pandemic really are. While most recover from the initial infection, many suffer from long-term, debilitating symptoms that could affect the rest of their lives.  Here at RTHM, our team of researchers and medical professionals focus on Long COVID and finding successful treatment options in order to help our patients navigate their Long COVID path and improve their quality of life.

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