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Omicron is now the second most contagious virus on the planet: University Hospitals doctor addresses infection rate

How contagious is omicron? Dr. Claudia Hoyen of University Hospitals says the new variant is second only to measles.

CLEVELAND — With federal health officials announcing Monday that omicron now accounts for 73 percent of new infections as COVID cases surge nationwide, a Cleveland doctor is offering more context behind the variant’s contagion status.

“When we look at the factors surrounding how contagious these viruses can be, the most contagious virus we think of is measles,” explained Dr. Claudia Hoyen, Pediatric Infection Control for UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. “That has a factor of about 18. This new variant of COVID-19 has a factor of 15, so it is the second most contagious virus on the planet currently.”

Her comments came during a joint press conference with Cleveland Clinic officials Tuesday morning in which a variety of medical experts addressed their concerns about the current spike in new infections.

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“It’s just very important for people to understand that we are in a much different position than we even were two weeks ago,” she continued. “We all need to be on guard because the potential number of people getting infected – even if it turns out that this virus does not cause as severe a disease in people, we don’t know that right now as that information is still forthcoming – we must assume that it is as serious as delta. If that’s the case, we are going to be overrun.”

The first known cases of omicron in Ohio were detected less than two weeks ago in central Ohio.

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