More than half of Americans have had COVID infections, U.S. study shows
Following the record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, some 58% of the U.S. population overall and more than 75% of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a U.S. nationwide blood survey released on Tuesday.
The study issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the U.S. population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in the United States.
Before Omicron arrived in December of 2021, a third of the U.S. population had evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Omicron drove up infections in every age group, according to the new data, but children and adolescents, many of whom remain unvaccinated, had the highest rates of infection, while people 65 and older – a heavily vaccinated population – had the lowest.
During the December to February period – when Omicron cases were raging in the United States – 75.2% of children aged 11 and younger had infection-related antibodies in their blood, up from 44.2% in the prior three-month period. Among those 12-17, 74.2% carried antibodies, up from 45.6% from September to December.
Scientists looked for specific antibodies produced in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are only present after an infection and are not generated by COVID-19 vaccines. Trace amounts of these antibodies can remain in the blood for as long as two years.
“Having infection-induced antibodies does not necessarily mean you are protected against future infection,” said the CDC’s Kristie Clarke, co-author of the study, during a media briefing. “We did not look at whether people had a level of antibodies that provides protection against reinfection or severe disease.”
U.S. COVID-19 infections are on the upswing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during the briefing, rising 22.7% in the past week to 44,000 per day. Hospitalizations rose for the second week in a row, up 6.6%, largely driven by subvariants of Omicron.
While deaths fell 13.2%, week-over-week, the United States is fast approaching the grim milestone of 1 million total COVID-related deaths.
Walensky said the BA.1 variant, which caused the Omicron wave, now only accounts for 3% of U.S. transmission. Increasingly, she said a subvariant first discovered in upstate New York called BA.2.121 makes up nearly 30% of U.S. cases, and appears to be 25% more transmissible that even the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.
In certain counties with high COVID-19 community spread, the CDC now recommends people wear a mask in public indoor settings. It cited upstate New York and the Northeast region as areas where hospitalizations have been rising.
Walensky said the CDC continues to recommend masking in all indoor public transportation settings, and stressed that vaccination remains the safest strategy for preventing complications from COVID-19.
More than 66% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 46% of had a booster, according to federal data.
China says 200 million treated, pandemic ‘decisively’ beaten
China says more than 200 million of its citizens have been diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 since it lifted strict containment measures beginning in November.
With 800,000 of the most critically ill patients having recovered, China has “decisively beaten” the pandemic, according to notes from a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee presided over by President and party leader Xi Jinping, AP reported.
China enforced some of the world’s most draconian lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions and still faces questions about the origins of the virus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Heavy-handed enforcement prompted rare anti-government protests and took a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying that policies to control the outbreak had been “entirely correct.” The abrupt lifting in November and December of the “zero COVID” policy that had sought to eliminate all cases of the virus led to a surge in infections that temporarily overwhelmed hospitals.
Case numbers have since peaked and life has largely returned to normal, although international travel in and out of China has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
China is now transitioning to a post-pandemic stage after a fight against the outbreak that was “extraordinary in the extreme,” Xinhua said.
The government will continue to “optimize and adjust prevention and control policies and measures according to the times and situations with a strong historical responsibility and strong strategic determination,” Xinhua said.
Study suggests people who had COVID-19 risk new-onset diabetes
A new Cedars-Sinai Medical Center suggests that people who have previously been infected with COVID-19 could stand an increased risk for new-onset diabetes.
The study’s results, conducted by researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai “have confirmed that people who have had COVID-19 have an increased risk for new-onset diabetes — the most significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.”
“Our results validate early findings revealing a risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after a COVID-19 infection and indicate that this risk has, unfortunately, persisted through the Omicron era,” said Dr. Alan Kwan, the author of the study and a cardiovascular physician at Cedars-Sinai.
“The research study helps us understand — and better prepare for — the post COVID-19 era of cardiovascular risk,” he said.
The study also suggests that the risk of Type 2 diabetes appears to be lower in those who had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their infection.
Iran registers over 160 new COVID cases, 2 deaths
The Iranian health ministry announced on Sunday that more than 160 new cases of COVID-19, and two deaths, had been recorded across the country in the past 24 hours.
“A sum of 161 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country based on confirmed diagnosis criteria during the past 24 hours,” the Iranian Health Ministry’s Public Relations Center said on Sunday, adding “82 patients have been hospitalized during the same time span.”
“Unfortunately, two patients have lost their lives in the past 24 hours, increasing the number of the dead to 144,781,” the ministry noted.
FARS news agency reported that according to the ministry, 233 people infected with COVID-19 are in critical condition.
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