A general view of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Following the record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, some 58% of the U.S. population overall and more than 75% of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a U.S. nationwide blood survey released on Tuesday.
Reuters reports that the study issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the U.S. population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in the United States.
Before Omicron arrived in December of 2021, a third of the U.S. population had evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Omicron drove up infections in every age group, according to the new data, but children and adolescents, many of whom remain unvaccinated, had the highest rates of infection, while people 65 and older – a heavily vaccinated population – had the lowest.
During the December to February period – when Omicron cases were raging in the United States – 75.2% of children aged 11 and younger had infection-related antibodies in their blood, up from 44.2% in the prior three-month period.
Among those 12-17, 74.2% carried antibodies, up from 45.6% from September to December.
Scientists looked for specific antibodies produced in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are only present after an infection and are not generated by COVID-19 vaccines.
Trace amounts of these antibodies can remain in the blood for as long as two years.
“Having infection-induced antibodies does not necessarily mean you are protected against future infection,” said the CDC’s Kristie Clarke, co-author of the study, during a media briefing.
U.S. COVID-19 infections are on the upswing, CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky told reporters during the briefing, rising 22.7% in the past week to 44,000 per day.
Hospitalisations rose for the second week in a row, up 6.6%, largely driven by subvariants of Omicron.
While deaths fell 13.2%, week-over-week, the United States is fast approaching the grim milestone of 1 million total COVID-related deaths.
Writing by Muzha Kucha