Half of people with Omicron don’t know they’re infected

USAmore than half of the people — 56% — who are infected with the Omicron variant are unaware of their infection.

That’s the conclusion of a research published on August 17 at Open JAMA Network. That’s good news, in some ways, as it highlights the fact that Omicron tends to cause relatively mild symptoms (or no symptoms at all) in vaccinated people. The downside is that many people are likely to spread the virus unintentionally.

Susan Cheng, director of the Healthy Aging Institute at the Smidt Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, and her colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles and Abbott Laboratories, studied 210 staff members and patients. at Cedars-Sinai, who provided at least two blood samples for antibody testing — one before the Omicron rise and one after. The researchers analyzed them for levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Most of the people in the study were vaccinated, and the researchers measured the levels of two different types of antibodies: the ones the immune system makes in response to the vaccine and the ones the immune system makes. out after being infected with the virus. At the start of the study, all volunteers had to have infection-causing antibody levels below a certain threshold, indicating that they had not been recently infected with the virus. That way, any increase in antibody levels is taken as a proxy for infection. Participants also filled out health surveys describing their symptoms and any COVID-19 PCR tests to determine if they had an infection during the study period.

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The researchers found that 56% of the people in the study who tested positive were not aware that they were infected, because they either did not experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or felt only mild symptoms. which they attributed to a cold or an allergy. Supporting findings original data from around the world show that throughout the pandemic, between 25% and 40% of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic, which poses a challenge for public health officials trying to control the spread of the virus.

“If one message comes out of our research, I hope that your awareness of the status of your infection will really be the key to helping us get through this pandemic faster,” said Cheng. “Lack of awareness and ignorance can lead to walking around with something contagious and unknowingly passing the virus on to a family member, neighbor, co-worker, or someone at the grocery store. chemical.”

Data shows that people’s awareness of their infection status improved after rapid home testing kits became widely available in early 2022. While about 75% of people were unaware of the condition. their infections in January and February, only about 56% in May.

The fact that one in two people infected with Omicron doesn’t even know they have COVID-19 is a strong case for more frequent testing. Regularly check yourself with home rapid antigen kit It’s a good idea even if you don’t feel sick, as traffic, work, schools, and crowded public places — like concerts or sports games — are all places you can go. may be infected.

Knowing your infection status may become increasingly important as studies show people are getting infected not just once, but twice and even multiple times with sub-variables Omicron. She’s currently studying reinfection to better understand how many times people have superinfection and what risk factors make it more susceptible to infection.

“Raising people’s awareness of their condition is our goal,” she said. “Unfortunately, we have to live with this virus for a while, and if we can be more aware, we can help ourselves, our families and our communities to limit the spread of the virus”.

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