Omicron variant is spreading, good news, bad news.
From a scientist in Canada
After more than two years, there is nothing to be said on this pandemic that has not been said.
Echoing what others are saying, the bad news is that this pandemic is becoming endemic: we will need to learn to live with COVID-19.
The good news is that the natural history of viral pandemics is governed by evolutionary principles: to spread their DNA or RNA more, it is advantageous for viruses to mutate to become less lethal and more infectious.
All the latest data seem to indicate that this is starting to happen with the Omicron variant.
For instance, surveillance of COVID-19 proteins in the wastewater in Ottawa is showing 1/3 of the activity seen in April 2021, even though the number of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa is 50% higher than the previous record number in mid-April 2021 (see two Figures below).
This suggests that, in a population that is largely vaccinated, there is a substantial change in shedding of Omicron from the gut.
In most vaccinated people, the Omicron virus stays in the nose and throat as a common cold virus would (“le virus d’un rhume”); these people test positive and they can infect others, but without virus in their lungs or gut, they do not develop a pneumonia or diarrhea; they do not get very sick.
This does not mean we can ignore COVID-19: if it becomes like the flu (“la grippe”) or the common cold, while most people will not get very sick, a substantial minority (i.e., still a lot of people) will get sick, and many old people (or younger people who are immune-compromised by cancer or other diseases) will die.
Also, even in young healthy people, a benign viral infection can be associated with significant complications.
For instance, benign viral infections can be followed by a permanent loss of sense of smell (and taste), a permanent facial paralysis, or an overreaction of natural immune defenses causing a Guillain-Barre syndrome in about 2 cases per 100,000 infections manifested as a paralysis that can lead to respiratory failure. While most people recover, recovery can take weeks to years; about a third of patients have some permanent weakness and 8% die.
All this to say, that we will need to continue to be vaccinated and to try to limit transmission, without preventing society from functioning, like we have done for the flu and the common cold.
My prediction for 2022: most human beings on earth (and many animals) will eventually be infected by the Omicron (or the next) variant and the pandemic will end, replaced by an endemic infection as happened with the Spanish flu (it stopped killing a massive number of people but it has stayed with us as “the seasonal flu”).
More day to day experience:
My sister has 8 children, and some great children one has COVID, one is contact case, one was at work in hospital for Xmas.
My brother in law has three sons: one could not come as his daughter 6 years old had caught COVID in school, and one was contact case.