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Time: Half of People With Omicron Don’t Know They’re Infected, Study Says

Time recently interviewed Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, about a study she led that found many individuals infected with the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 didn’t know they had it.   

In research published in JAMA Network Open, Cheng and her team reviewed blood samples from 2,479 Cedars-Sinai employees and patients collected before and after the Omicron-induced surge. 

To be included in the study, an individual’s blood had to indicate increased levels of COVID-19 antibodies after the Omicron surge, a likely sign of a recent infection from the highly contagious variant. The researchers invited the 210 participants who qualified for the study to complete health surveys indicating whether they had recently experienced a COVID-19 infection.  

Cheng and her team determined that 56% of positive people were unaware they had been infected with Omicron. Because the variant often causes mild symptoms similar to those of a cold or allergies, it could easily be dismissed. Cheng told Time that these findings could help explain why Omicron spread so easily.

"Lack of awareness and knowledge could lead to walking around with something transmissible and unwittingly passing the virus to a household member, neighbor, co-worker or someone at the grocery store," Cheng told Time.  

Cheng said it’s a good idea to regularly test with at-home rapid antigen kits—even for those without symptoms—because public transportation, work, school and crowded public venues are places where the virus can easily spread.

“If one message comes out of our study, I hope it’s that awareness of your infection status is going to be really key to get us through this pandemic faster,” Cheng told Time.

Click here to read the complete article from Time.