Should We Be Worried about the COVID-19 Omicron Variant and the New Omicron ‘Stealth’ Sub-variant?
Since its original discovery in South Africa and Botswana, the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19) has virtually swept over the entire globe, causing almost 100 million cases of COVID-19 in only one month’s time (versus around 300 million cases the previous 23 months). And more recently, a sub-variant of Omicron (called by some the Omicron ‘Stealth’ variant) has been detected in over 50 countries worldwide. So, should we be worried about this variant and sub-variant? The answer is Yes and No.
Yes: though most studies have shown this variant to cause milder illness than previous variants, it can still be deadly for those at high risk (e.g., elderly, obese, diabetic, cardiovascular disease) and/or that have not been vaccinated.
No: more and more studies are showing that those that have been vaccinated and/or have been previously infected with COVID-19 are better protected against hospitalization (between 50% and 80% protection) and death.
Vaccination or natural infection not only stimulates our immune systems to produce antibodies (proteins in our blood that recognize and attach to viruses, priming them for destruction), but also signals T-cells in our immune systems to fight against these viral invaders. These T-cells are specialized at recognizing our own cells that have been invaded by viruses and destroying these cells before the virus can multiply and infect neighboring cells. Months after vaccination or natural infection, antibody and T-cell levels drop, but some immune cells, called ‘Memory’ cells remain and are primed to go into action once the COVID-19 virus enters our bodies again.
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