Omicron is the ‘second most contagious’ virus in the world


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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – A pediatric infectious disease specialist at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Ohio, Dr. Claudia Hoyen, was blunt about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is on track to continue into another year of our lives. “We’re going to be overrun,” she says.

Dr. Hoyen was one of several health leaders from University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic who spoke Tuesday during a joint press conference. “Omicron is the second most contagious virus on the planet,” she said. “The most contagious virus we think of is measles, which has a factor of about 18.”

The “factor” Hoyen is referring to is the basic reproduction number or the average number of people who someone with the virus would infect. Measles can live for up to two hours in enclosed airspace and is so contagious that if one person has it “up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected,” according to the CDC. Making it even harder to contain is the fact that someone who has measles can spread the virus to others four days before, and four days after, they develop the telltale rash.

“This new variant of COVID-19 has a factor of 15,” Hoyen said. “It’s just very important for people to understand that we are in a much different position than we were just two weeks ago.

Hoyen says they’re also seeing more children with acute COVID and kids who are fighting multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which is associated with the virus. “Our ERs are overwhelmed. Our workers are exhausted,” said Hoyer.

Omicron cases accounted for about 13% of all COVID-19 cases nationally last week. By Monday night, they accounted for 73%. The World Health Organization said Saturday that omicron cases have been doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission.

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