GEE AND URSULA

Virologist: Even if less severe than delta, omicron variant could stress health care system

Dec 15, 2021, 4:02 PM
omicron...
Nurses plan patient care at the nurses station in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

While it’s still unclear how “severely ill” people can get from the omicron variant of COVID-19, it is known that the variant is spreading rapidly.

“That’s giving the virus more opportunities to mutate, and potentially would allow the emergence of other variants, which could be even worse,” Dr. Angela Rasmussen told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

Washington seeing ‘rapid rise’ of omicron variant cases leading into holiday season

Dr. Rasmussen has been joining KIRO Radio for months, since near the start of the COVID pandemic. She is a virologist and has a PhD in microbiology and immunology from Columbia University that she got in 2009. She did her postdoc at the University of Washington. Now, Rasmussen studies emerging viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, and is an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan, working at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization.

While omicron “might” cause less severe illness than the delta variant, Dr. Rasmussen says the stress on the hospital system will seem the same.

“Even if it is half as severe as delta, if it infects twice as many people, that could still lead to ultimately the same amount of stress being put on the health care system,” she said.

“We really do need to be very concerned about omicron, I think, not necessarily because it’s going to be so much worse than delta in terms of its severity, but because it could still have a pretty significant impact on our already weakened health care system,” she added.

Early studies show that COVID vaccines — along with a booster — can protect you from the omicron variant and other variants seen so far.

‘Worrisome’ mystery grows with no updates on state lawmaker who contracted COVID

As for the new COVID pill that has been shown in clinical trials to keep people from severe illness, it works by “basically [stopping] the virus from being able to replicate,” Rasmussen explained.

The benefits of the Pfizer pill are that you can take it orally, and that it can likely keep you from getting severe COVID that lands you in the hospital. But it’s only helpful if you take it early.

“The key here, with this drug, is that it has to be given to people early in their course of infection,” Rasmussen noted. “It has to be given within the first five days of developing symptoms, or it doesn’t do any good.”

“The severe disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection is actually the result of the infection causing your immune system and inflammatory responses to essentially go haywire,” she explained. “So if you get rid of the virus early enough, it’s not going to trigger your immune system and your inflammatory system to do that. If you let the infection go, then it will get to a point where really doing something about the infection itself isn’t going to help because that process has already started.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

Bruce Harrell inaugural address...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Seattle Mayor Harrell looks to form third public safety department for unarmed responders

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell wants to supplement the city's police and fire departments with a third public safety department.
3 days ago
grocery...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Gee & Ursula: Report shows most Kroger grocery workers struggle to afford food

A new report shows that more than two-thirds of Kroger grocery workers are struggling to afford food, housing, or other basic needs.
4 days ago
amanda knox...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gee interviews Amanda Knox on new podcast

On “Leaving a Legacy,” Gee interviews Amanda Knox -- an author, activist, and journalist who was wrongly convicted in the murder her roommate.
5 days ago
kent police...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Gee & Ursula: Apology for handling of Kent police officer who posted Nazi emblem fixes little

The Kent mayor and police chief apologized for the separation delay of an officer alleged to have displayed a Nazi emblem, only after public outcry.
6 days ago
COVID vaccine...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Likely that Washington schools will eventually require students to get COVID vaccine

Could the COVID vaccine join the list of requirements for children to attend school in Washington? State Superintendent Chris Reykdal believes it will.
8 days ago
outdoor lunch, kirkland...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

State superintendent: Kirkland school’s outdoor lunch rule ‘not the best choice’

Parents at Lakeview Elementary expressed outrage after finding out that the school would be mandating outdoor lunch in cold temperatures.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Virologist: Even if less severe than delta, omicron variant could stress health care system