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As thecontinues to make its way through cities, causing infections and some in some who have already had it, it can start to feel like everyone is getting sick.
If you’ve been spared an episode of COVID-19 so far while others you know have tested positive, you may have wondered: Should I just expose myself and be done with it?
No, says Dr. Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“There are several problems with this line of thinking,” Beyrer told CNET. First, he said, although your risk of severe COVID-19 is now rare if you are vaccinated and boosted, some vaccinated people have had severe cases of COVID-19. And if you are not vaccinated, this risk is much higher. So why risk it on purpose?
Second, vaccinated people can still spread the virus, he said, putting other people who didn’t choose to be sick at risk. Elderly people, immunocompromised people, or children under 5 would be particularly at risk if you encountered them in your apartment building while self-isolating or at the grocery store before you realized you were sick, for example.
Third, he says, there is the risk of, which develops in about 15-20% of people with confirmed COVID-19 infection, including people who have had relatively mild cases. These symptoms can range from bothersome to debilitating and disruptive to daily life.
Is catching the virus that is causing a global pandemic inevitable? With the, some experts said, maybe. But choosing to get sick just to get it over with has consequences beyond you, even if you’ll never know it.
Getting sick together: like a chicken pox party?
“Chickenpox parties” or parents intentionally exposing their children to chickenpox so they get immunity young were big before there was a chickenpox vaccine, Beyrer said, adding that the generation that contracted chickenpox is now susceptible to shingles. But there is no place for this mentality when it comes to COVID-19.
“COVID is now a largely preventable disease,” he said.
As a scenario, we proposed this to Beyrer: Five fully immunized young adults in their twenties, who feel generally healthy and are likely to contract a mild case of COVID-19, decide to round up COVID-19 in order to be done with it. this. What could happen?
Although the odds are low for anyone in that group to get really sick, Beyrer said, on average one of them will develop long COVID. And for neighbors in the group who self-isolate together, including the immunocompromised, the elderly, or those under age 5, the group cluster could lead to serious illness.
“With a virus as infectious as omicron, these infections can spread widely,” Beyrer said. “And those five young people would probably never know who they might have hurt.”
Another thing to note is that COVID-19 is not a “one and done” disease for everyone, and many people are battling it a second time after falling ill earlier in the pandemic. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, natural immunity wanes over time, like unboosted vaccine immunity.
Just because omicron causes less serious disease doesn’t mean it’s not serious
Omicron leads toand deaths than the delta, Beyrer said. But it’s also much more contagious, driving the number of cases skyrocketing. And just because it causes less severe disease for the average person doesn’t mean it will for everyone.
“When you have that many millions of cases, the deaths will also increase,” Beyrer said. “Like us [are] see now in the United States.”
The need to “flatten the curve” of people getting sick with COVID-19 in order to preserve hospital capacity for those who end up very sick is just as strong today as it was in the spring of 2020.
“We are already seeing the cost to the health system and to health workers,” Beyrer said. Hospital beds in 24 states were close to capacity, The New York Times reported on Friday. But in addition to an increase in the number of patients with COVID-19, more people getting sick means more healthcare workers getting sick. When hospitals don’t have enough staff to care for patients, they have to “close a bed,” as the Wall Street Journal pointed out.
Will everyone end up getting COVID-19 anyway? When will COVID-19 become endemic?
Some health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, and Dr. Janet Woodcock, Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, have made recent comments saying, basically, that everyone world will be exposed or get sick with COVID-19. But do they mean it will happen this winter when the virus is expected to peak again, or afterand more like a seasonal disease?
“The reality is that unvaccinated people have a very high probability of being infected – in South Africa it was over 80% of all people sampled,” Beyrer said. The vaccinated (and some of the vaccinated) are also likely to be exposed given the sheer contagiousness of the omicron variant, “but are much more likely to have asymptomatic or mild infections, many of which will go undetected unless the person not being tested for any reason.”
The World Health Organization has warned that 50% of Europe could be infected with omicron in the coming weeks, which some experts say could herald the path of the United States. But a high number of COVID-19 infections does not necessarily indicate the end of a pandemic, because for something to become endemic, the virus needs some predictability, said Catherine Smallwood, an official at the WHO, to the New York Times. And COVID-19 is anything but stable right now.
Many modelers predict COVID-19 rates will begin to drop rapidly around the end of January, Beyrer said, and we could see much lower case numbers by March. But whether COVID-19 will cease to be a pandemic depends on a few factors, including whether vaccine and booster rates increase, a vaccine for children under 5 is found, and omicron is the latest variant of concern, a he declared.
“This assumes that no other variant emerges while the omicron is in decline,” Beyrer said. “An assumption that proved incorrect with the delta variant, as we all too painfully know.”
Byrer acknowledged the fatigue of living through a pandemic and the feeling that it will never end. But, “We’re all tired,” he said. Actively trying to get sick now thinking it will give you immunity later is harmful to the individual and harmful to the community, he said, and it will also “maintain the chains of transmission and prolong the pain”.
Instead, people should focus on their mental health, Beyrer said. People should see family and friends “as carefully and safely as possible”.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.