© Getty Images / Udomkarn Chitkul
The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is the second most contagious disease on the planet, behind measles, according to a Cleveland infection control doctor, who issued a warning about the rapidly changing epidemiological situation.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Claudia Hoyen, co-director of infection control for University Hospitals, said the Omicron strain of Covid-19 was spreading like "wildfire" across Northeast Ohio, noting that the virus was now one of the most contagious on the planet.
"The thing to know about this variant is that it is so much more contagious," she stated, adding that "it is the second-most contagious virus on the planet currently. And so it’s just very important for people to understand that we are in a much different position than we actually even were two weeks ago."
The most contagious disease known to mankind is measles. The virus has largely been brought under control, particularly in the West, by widespread vaccination campaigns.
Hoyen claimed that the Omicron variant seems to be doubling every two to three days, and therefore Northeast Ohio medical services were working on the assumption that the strain now, or will soon, account for the majority of Covid-19 cases in the region.
She also pointed to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, which suggested Omicron accounts for 73% of the new cases of Covid-19 within the US. The figure represents a massive jump from 13% the previous week.
Hoyen was one of several medical professionals who spoke during the press conference, warning that the current wave of infections, driven both by the Delta and Omicron variants, was leaving hospitals overcrowded and overwhelmed.
The infectious disease expert noted that while there’s some suggestion that Omicron might be less virulent, this has yet to be proven. As such, healthcare professionals must treat it as if it is as deadly as other variants.