Aug. 18, 2022 -- Most people with Omicron likely don’t know it.
That’s according to a study in JAMA Network Open, which says 56% of people who have the Omicron variant of the coronavirus are unaware of their infection.
And it has an upside and a downside, depending on how you look at it, according to Time magazine.
“It’s good news, in some ways, since it underscores the fact that Omicron tends to cause relatively mild symptoms (or no symptoms at all) in vaccinated people,” Time says. “The downside is that many people are likely spreading the virus unintentionally.”
The study looked at 210 hospital patients and employees in the Los Angeles area. More than half who tested positive didn’t know it – because they had no symptoms, or they assumed they merely had a cold or allergies.
“The findings support early data from around the world suggesting that throughout the pandemic, anywhere from 25% to 40% of SARS-CoV-2 infections have been asymptomatic, which presents challenges for public-health officials trying to control the spread of the virus,” Time reports.
The study found that awareness of infection rose after at-home tests became available this year. About three-quarters of people in January and February didn’t know their status, for example.
“Findings of this study suggest that low rates of Omicron variant infection awareness may be a key contributor to rapid transmission of the virus within communities,” the authors wrote. “Given that unawareness of active infection precludes self-initiated interventions, such as testing and self-isolation, even modest levels of undiagnosed infection can contribute to substantial population-level transmission.”