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Why is Omicron causing a surge in breakthrough infections? – NBC Chicago

The Omicron variant leads to an increase in breakthrough infections in the fully vaccinated and in some cases in boosters, but what about this variant leads to an increase in infections?

“Omicron is really different, you know, we’ve seen a lot more breakthrough infections, we’ve also seen people who had COVID before, especially when it was like last year … with the variants before, we” I have all of these transmissions seen in multiple studies, “said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Health.

People might mistakenly believe that the COVID-19 vaccines block infection completely, but the vaccines are primarily designed to prevent serious illnesses, says Louis Mansky, a virus researcher at the University of Minnesota.

And the vaccines are still doing their job on that front, especially for people who have received booster vaccinations.

Omicron seems to replicate much more efficiently than previous variants. And when infected people have a high viral load, they are more likely to pass it on to others, especially those who have not been vaccinated. Vaccinated people who get the virus are more likely to have mild symptoms, if any, as the injections set off multiple defense mechanisms in your immune system, making it much more difficult for Omicron to get past them all.

Chicago’s top doctor explained what exactly happens in the body when an omicron infection begins, which may explain, in part, what is believed to be behind the increased risk of transmission, but also why many of the groundbreaking cases report milder symptoms.

It all starts with antibodies, said Arwady.

“Antibodies are your immediate immune response … If you either get COVID infection or get vaccinated with COVID, teach your body how to fight off COVID the next time, and you build what are called antibodies. Those antibodies are that.” “So what we think is” the first line of defense for your immune system, so to speak, the fastest part, “said Arwady.” So we think we see – and again we’re still learning the details of the science here with omicron – that we know the levels of antibodies in the Decrease over time. We know this happens after vaccination, we know that “happens after a natural infection. One of the reasons boosters seem to help pretty much here is because they get your antibody levels back up quickly, so the antibody is really trying, you.” to protect against infection. But omicron is moving so fast that we think there are more cases of people getting infected, like in their noses … to the point where they are infected, you can get theirs Pick up the test. Fortunately, antibodies aren’t the whole story of your immune system. “

She went on to say that “the slower parts of your immune system” known as B cells and T cells are behind antibodies.

“They don’t stop you from getting infected, but they come after the antibodies and they kill infected cells, stop them from replicating and forming and getting into your lungs and making you seriously ill,” she said. “We’re still learning, but I think the reason the vaccines continue to protect so well against serious infections is because it’s not just about the antibodies, but when the antibodies are down, people can still get away infect.” . “

Arwady noted that it is “hypothesized based on what I know about the science of the immune system and what we see”.

Although many cases remain mild, there are still concerns that even a mild infection can lead to what are known as “long-term COVID” symptoms.

“What I’m particularly interested in is what we see after these landmark cases where many people get sick very easily,” said Arwady. “I’m not very worried just about what I’ve seen COVID for her for a long time, but it was … we have to study it. We’ve never had that before. “

The US expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies commission on Tuesday that the Omicron variant “will eventually find almost everyone”. Country.

Although there are some cases of mild illness, people should keep trying to avoid COVID whenever possible, Arwady said.

“Yes, the whole world has COVID right now, but don’t think you should just go and get COVID,” she said.

The changing response to COVID variants is mainly why Arwady said herd immunity is unlikely to be achievable.

“[COVID] does not act like measles. If you got measles once, got your measles vaccine as a kid, I’m not really worried about measles in you, ”Arwady said, developing it is more like the flu. And I’m always careful when I make this comparison because I know there are people who say, ‘Oh, they just say COVID is like the flu. We don’t care about the flu. ‘ I am not saying that. For vaccinated and booster adults in children, the way they are hospitalized is currently more like the flu. But that doesn’t apply to people who are unvaccinated and unboosted. “

Arwady said COVID and flu might be similar in that there are annual strains of flu, there might also be annual variants of COVID.

“I’m not sure there is mythical herd immunity just because the virus continues to change so much,” she said.

The advice on safety has not changed. Doctors say you should wear masks indoors, avoid crowds, and get vaccinated and boosted. While the gunshots won’t always stop you from contracting the virus, they will increase the chances of staying alive and leaving the hospital.

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