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A year later, Omicron still worries about COVID surge in US, families gathering for vacation

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A year after Omicron began its attack on humanity, ever-changing coronavirus variants have caused COVID-19 case numbers in many places just as Americans gathered for Thanksgiving. This was a harbinger of the wave that experts expect will soon hit the US

Dr. Nicholas Vasquez, an emergency physician in the Phoenix area, said his hospital has been increasing the number of chronically ill patients and nursing home residents with severe COVID-19 this month.

“It’s been quite some time since we needed a COVID ward,” he said. ‘Obviously recovered’

Nationwide, there were an average of about 39,300 new COVID cases per day as of Tuesday. That’s a lot less than last winter, but a significant underestimation due to fewer tests and reports. About 28,000 people were hospitalized and about 340 died each day with COVID.

Cases and deaths are up from two weeks ago. But her fifth of the U.S. population hasn’t been vaccinated, most Americans haven’t gotten the latest boosters, and many have stopped wearing masks.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to look for ways to avoid defeat.

A variant of Omicron arrived in the United States shortly after Thanksgiving last year, sparking the pandemic’s largest wave of cases. Since then, a large extended family of subvariants has been generated, including his BQ.1, BQ.1.1 and BA.5, which are now the most common in the United States. They beat their competitors by successfully circumventing vaccines and immunity from previous illnesses, making millions sick.

Carrie Johnson’s family was hit twice. Her son Fabian Swain, 16, suffered much milder symptoms in her September when the BA.5 variant predominated.

Fabian recovered quickly, but Johnson suffered from headaches for weeks. Other problems persisted.

“I was like, ‘I can’t get it together.’ I couldn’t get my thoughts together. I couldn’t muster the energy,” said Johnson, 42, of Germantown, Maryland. “And it went on for months.”

Some communities are being hit particularly hard right now. Tracking by the Mayo Clinic shows an upward trend in cases in states such as Florida, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

In Navajo County, Arizona, the average daily infection rate is more than double the state average. Dr James McCauley said 25 to 50 people a day tested positive for coronavirus at the Indian health service facility where he works. .

“We’re essentially back where we hit our last big peak,” said McAuley, clinical director of the White River Indian Hospital, which serves the White Mountain Apaches, in February.

Carrie Johnson and son Fabian Swain are pictured wearing face masks at their home in Germantown, Maryland on Nov. 14, 2022. Carrie and Fabian are both recovering from her COVID.

COVID-19 is part of a triple threat that includes influenza and a virus known as RSV.

The system’s children’s hospital in Orlando is nearly full with children infected with these viruses, according to Dr. Vincent Hsu, who oversees infection control for AdventHealth. Dr. Greg Martin, former president of the Critical Care Medicine Association, sees similar trends elsewhere.

Children’s hospital emergency departments and acute care clinics are busier than ever, said Martin, who primarily practices at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. “This is a record compared to any previous month, week or day,” he said.

Looking to the future, experts see widespread wave species in the United States. They point to what is happening internationally. 5 surge in Japan, a combination of variants pushing cases in South Korea, and the start of a new wave in Norway.

Some experts say the US wave could start as people gather indoors during the holidays. Trevor Bedford, a biologist and genetics expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said what the country saw in July could peak at about 150,000 new cases per day. rice field.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, medical director of the emergency department at Children’s Health Care at Atlanta Spalding Hospital, said the new wave is going to be rough. We’re on the verge, so if this, plus another COVID surge, could crack some systems.”

One bright spot? The death toll could be much lower than in the early days of the pandemic. About 1 in 2,000 now dies, compared to about 1 in 200 in the first half of 2020, Bedford said.

The same broad immunity that reduced deaths has mutated the coronavirus. By the end of last year, many had been infected, vaccinated, or both. Because the virus has evolved so much in its ability to evade existing immunity, this “created the first niche for omicron to spread,” Bedford said.

Omicron prospered. Mara Aspinall, who teaches biomedical diagnostics at Arizona State University, said her first strain of omicron was 7.5% of the circulating variant by mid-December, and just two weeks later she was 80%. pointed out that it occupies U.S. cases at one point she soared to 1 million per day. Omicron generally caused less severe illness than previous variants, but hospitalizations and deaths skyrocketed given the sheer number of infected people.

The giant waves have receded by mid-April. The virus rapidly mutated into a series of subvariants that were adept at evading immunity. According to a recent study published in Science Immunology, this ability to evade antibodies is due to more than 30 changes in the spike proteins that dot the viral surface.

According to Bedford, Omicron has evolved a lot in a year and is now “a dead term.”

This rapid change is likely to continue.

Shishi Luo, director of infectious diseases at Helix, a company that provides viral sequencing information to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said:

Doctors say the best defense against subvariant bubbly stew remains vaccination. are now better protected than others against symptomatic infections.

Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Vaccine Development Center at Texas Children’s Hospital, said getting a booster is “the most impactful thing you can do,” if you qualify.

Doctors are also urging people to continue testing, continue to take precautions such as wearing masks in crowds, and stay home when sick.

Dr. Raol Fayanju of Oak Street Health in Cleveland, who specializes in geriatric care, said: “People have to keep thinking about each other. We’re not quite out of this yet.”

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Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth contributed from the Kansas Mission.

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The Associated Press’ Health Sciences Division is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Division. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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