Omicron: Some Good News

By Shlomo Maital   

     On this week’s Science Friday podcast, came some interesting good news about Omicron.  This variant of COVID-19 has become dominant – this week, I got an Omicron vaccine booster.  But it is far less virulent than other variants.  The reason, according to experts:  Omicron shifted its attack, from our lungs (lower respiratory system) to our noses and throats (upper respiratory).  This means, rather than kill us by ruining our lungs, Omicron makes us just uncomfortable, with stuffy noses and sore throats. 

    Why did evolution do this?  Apparently, it is easier for Omicron to evade immune reactions when it reproduces in our noses, than when it reproduces in our lungs.   And remember: It is still worth getting that booster shot.

    The experts explain:  Evolution does not have an omniscient godlike brain.  It does not purposely become more virulent or less virulent.  The virus simply wants to reproduce; and does whatever it takes.  Sometimes, that kills us.  Sometimes, it just makes us uncomfortable.  The virus doesn’t really care.  By the time it kills us, it has reproduced billions of times and spread elsewhere.  So it is kind of a dice roll.

    Interestingly, because of lockdowns, masking and distancing, influenza  (flu) has declined in the past two years.  And amazingly, influenza Type B (a variant) nearly disappeared!   But as we go back to normal, chances are flu will again be on the rise.  And COVID?  It may be with us for quite some time.