Local health official speaks on the omicron variant and herd immunity

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — With the omicron variant driving record numbers of COVID-19 cases, health officials are working to learn more.

The omicron variant is now the dominant strain across the Cape Fear, and although it is more contagious than other variant, it is causing fewer hospitalizations than with the delta variant.

Dr. West Paul, chief clinical officer and senior vice president of the coastal market at Novant Health, says this is due to the omicron variant affecting the upper respiratory tract, instead of the lungs.

“Even though this virus spreads faster, it is not quite as good at putting people in the hospital. Still bad, still much worse than influenza, but still that is– if there’s anything a plus, that omicron is not putting the numbers that we saw with the delta virus in the hospital. If this was delta spread as we’re seeing now, we would be overwhelmed, said Dr. West Paul.

Dr. Paul also says the omicron variant could aid in herd immunity.

“The more people that have immunity to the virus, whether it’s from getting the virus or through vaccine, the less likely that virus has a chance to spread and will eventually stop in the population,” said Dr. Paul. “We may achieve that part of this virus just becoming endemic, not pandemic, not causing these huge spikes of hospitalizations, and enough herd immunity where it can’t reproduce as quickly, thus you stop the mutations.”

Dr. Paul encourages people to get a COVID-19 or booster to help further boost their immunity and reduce their chances of hospitalization.

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