TOP STORIES New study finds Omicron poses about half the risk...

New study finds Omicron poses about half the risk of long-term COVID than delta


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The omicron variant, while much more contagious than the delta strain, is still common in the US but is less likely than the delta to cause protracted COVID, according to a new study.

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The omicron variant, while much more contagious than the delta strain, is still common in the US but is less likely than the delta to cause protracted COVID, according to a new study.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

According to the first large-scale study published on the long-term risks associated with omicron, the omicron variant is much less likely than delta to cause protracted COVID.

But nearly 5% of people who catch omicron still experience fatigue, brain fog, headaches, heart problems or other health issues at least a month after exposure, a study found.

While some researchers have found the results encouraging, others say the results are alarming given that so many people have contracted omicron and appear to remain at risk even if they are vaccinated.

“It’s scary,” the doctor says. Akiko Iwasakian immunobiologist at the Yale School of Medicine who has been studying COVID for a long time but was not involved in the new study.

“People assume that because omicron is softer, ‘let’s just get infected and be done with it,’” says Iwasaki.

finds, published Thursday at Lancetcome from researchers at King’s College London who are tracking thousands of people who test positive for coronavirus to determine risk long COVID from different options.

“The main question that we are trying to answer is: “Is COVID widespread enough … in the delta period? [as it is] in the micron period?” says Dr. Claire Steveswho helped conduct the research. “What is the risk of getting long-term COVID given the different options?”

The researchers compared 56,003 people who caught omicron between December 20, 2021 and March 9, 2022 with 41,361 people who caught delta between June 1, 2021 and November 27, 2021 and tracked their symptoms using a special app.

The researchers found that those who caught omicron were about half as likely as those who got delta to still experience health problems a month later.

“Fortunately, with the omicron variant, the risk of getting long-term COVID is greatly reduced compared to the delta variant,” Steves said in an interview with NPR. – Great news, isn’t it?

This is especially good news because omicron is so contagious that it has infected a huge number of people incredibly quickly. If the risk were the same as or higher than the delta, the number of people who would end up with long-term COVID would increase dramatically.

The findings are consistent with less analysis released recently by the British government.

But the lower risk doesn’t mean people shouldn’t worry about prolonged COVID due to omicrons, Steves and others agree. Omicrons have a 4.4% chance of getting long COVID, compared to almost 10.8% for deltas, according to the study.

“The caveat is that the omicron variant spread very quickly through our population, and so a lot more people were affected. going up,” says Steves. “So it’s definitely not the time for us to cut services for prolonged COVID.”

But for any individual person, the results show that the risk of becoming seriously ill and developing persistent symptoms is dramatically lower.

The study did not look at why omicron might pose a lower risk for long-term COVID. But Steves and others say omicron is less likely to cause persistent symptoms because it doesn’t make people as sick as delta.

“Because of the lesser severity of the disease, and also because it seems a little more superficial in terms of the disease…it affects us less in terms of the severity of our immune response,” says Steves. “And therefore, it leads to a lesser likelihood of prolonged COVID.”

Other researchers say these findings need to be confirmed by more research.

“They were just looking at anyone who reported any symptoms through this app. They didn’t actually evaluate these patients in any clinic or collect objective data about them,” says Dr. Michael Sneller, a long-time COVID researcher at the National Institutes of Health. .

But Sneller says he wouldn’t be surprised if omicron is less likely to cause protracted COVID, as it appears to cause less severe illness.

Some researchers hope the results will correct the misconception that people don’t have to worry about Omicron’s long-term COVID-19.

“You know, we say, ‘You can take your masks off on airplanes. You no longer need to be vaccinated to enter a restaurant.” All of these policy decisions will increase the likelihood of people getting infected with COVID-19, while the chance of a severe chronic disease is still 5%, ”says the doctor. David Putrino, which treats long-term COVID at Mount Sinai in New York. “It’s shortsighted and will result in a long-term disability that shouldn’t have happened.”

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