Omicron is now the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the United States
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NEW YORK (AP) – Omicron has edged out other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the United States, accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said on Monday.
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an almost six-fold increase in the share of omicron infections in just one week.
In much of the country, the prevalence of omicron is even higher. It is responsible for about 90% of new infections in the New York City area, the Southeast, the Industrial Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest.
Since the end of June, the delta variant has been the main version causing infections in the United States. As late as the end of November, more than 99.5% of coronaviruses were delta, according to CDC data.
African scientists sounded the alarm bells about omicron less than a month ago and on November 26 the World Health Organization named it a ‘variant of concern’. The mutant has since appeared in around 90 countries.
Much of the omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe disease. Early studies suggest that those vaccinated will need a booster to have the best chance of preventing omicron infection, but even without the extra dose, the vaccination should still offer strong protection against serious illness and death.
“We all have an appointment with omicron,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you’re going to be interacting with society, if you’re going to have any type of life, omicron will be something that you come across, and the best way to meet it is to be fully immunized.”
Adalja said he was not surprised by CDC data showing an omicron delta overshoot in the United States, given what has been seen in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark. He predicted spread over the holidays, including infections among those vaccinated and serious complications among those unvaccinated that could stress hospitals already overwhelmed by the delta.
The CDC’s estimates are based on thousands of coronavirus samples collected each week by academic and commercial labs and state and local health departments. Scientists analyze their genetic sequences to determine which versions of the COVID-19 viruses are most abundant.
In the week ending Dec. 11, omicron’s share of new infections in the United States rose to 2.9% from 0.4% the week before, the CDC previously reported.
But the CDC said on Tuesday it was revising some of the earlier figures, after analyzing more specimens. The new figures indicate that about 13% of infections in the week of Dec. 11 were omicron, not 3%, CDC officials said.
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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