Montgomery doctor weighs in on omicron variant

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 7:22 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Critical Care Pulmonologist Dr. David Thrasher says there is bad news and good news when it comes to the omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Omicron is really hitting our state and city very hard right now, the good news is it’s much milder than the delta and other variants. So the percentage of people who are getting very sick or being hospitalized is much lower than other variants, but the sheer number of patients that we’re seeing with COVID is really overwhelming our emergency rooms,” said Dr. David Thrasher.

Dr. Thrasher insists you must not let your guard down. He continues to recommend masking up, social distancing, getting vaccinated or boosted if you have not yet done so.

“There have been estimations Omicron is anywhere from four to 75 times more contagious than the other variants. Before we used to say you to be around somebody, 15 minutes. Now you can simply pull your facemask down when you talk to somebody and get it. So it’s very contagious,” said Thrasher. “Hopefully, this will impart a little natural immunity. We know that natural immunity or vaccine immunity is not everlasting with COVID,” Thrasher added

Another concern of his is the number of people he’s seeing who have long term effects even after recovering from COVID.

“We’re seeing about 20% of these people develop long COVID. I’ve seen a lot of people and that’s basically all I’m doing now in the office. About a third of these are neurological, brain fog, even some seizures occasionally. We are seeing 30% develop a cardiac and 30% pulmonary problems. You don’t want long COVID. You can’t predict it. Sometimes even asymptomatic people are coming down with long COVID.” said Thrasher.

With flu season here he points out it complicates the situation.

“I say last year, flu took a holiday. We saw very little flu last year, primarily because people were masked and social distancing better, we are not doing that nearly as much now,” said Thrasher. “Our flu numbers are definitely going up statewide, we had probably a 31% increase in the flu numbers or flu like illnesses last week alone. So flu is here, too. It’s very difficult to differentiate, you really need to differentiate with a COVID test and a flu test.”

Right now Thrasher says both tests running low state wide.

“We are running out of both of those statewide. In Montgomery, we have a critical shortage. I don’t know if any place you can get a home test. The hospitals are reserving those primarily the rapid test for people who need emergency surgery or procedures. So it’s a major problem,” said Thrasher.

Dr. Thrasher says supply issues create a similar dilemma when it comes to treatment like monoclonal antibodies and the new COVID pill Paxlovid.

“It’s made by Pfizer, unfortunately, it is in short supply. Last week, they supplied I think 60,000 doses nationwide. I had 20 doses, got notified that Wednesday, and by Wednesday night, I’d use them all up. That will be the difference between this becoming an endemic versus the pandemic, we have. Once we have enough of this available, and assuming it gets future variants,” said Thrasher.

Dr. Thrasher says they’ve reached out to Alabama congressional leaders who have been pushing the federal government to get more testing available throughout the nation in particularly the South.

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