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Los Angeles Times: What Makes the Omicron Variant Spread So Easily?

The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Newsweek recently spoke with Cedars-Sinai experts including research scientist Jasmine Plummer, PhD, psychiatrist Itai Danovitch, MD, and infectious disease specialist Catherine Le, MD, about the omicron variant of COVID-19 and its impact on the U.S. 

Omicron quickly became the country’s dominant strain because early data suggests it's better at eluding the body’s defenses and can replicate faster, causing infected individuals to spread more viral particles. Plummer, an associate director in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai, told the Los Angeles Times that this latest COVID-19 variant is so contagious because viruses evolve to survive. "We knew an omicron was coming," she said.

New variants will keep developing as long as there are active infections, Plummer told the Los Angeles Times. She urged vaccination and boosting to prevent hospitalizations and keep new variants from emerging.

The omicron-fueled surge over the holidays delivered a double dose of anxiety to many people, Danovitch told The New York Times. To cope in a healthy way, Danovitch, who is chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai, recommended keeping alcohol and cannabis use in check and finding pastimes such as volunteering to shift the focus away from the pandemic. But "if that anxiety is really spinning out of control," seek help, he advised.

Unfortunately, patients who become ill with even a mild case of COVID-19 can develop long COVID-19, experiencing symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog for weeks or months after their initial infection has cleared, Le told Newsweek

Le, co-director of the Cedars-Sinai COVID-19 Recovery Program, said that it’s difficult to tally the percentage of COVID-19 patients later debilitated by post-COVID-19 symptoms, but that as omicron case counts surge it could add up to a "huge number."

Click here to read the complete articles from The New York Times and Newsweek, and the article and FAQ from the Los Angeles Times.