The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced Wednesday that the omicron variant of COVID-19 is driving the number of infections ever higher.
PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told a weekly scheduled COVID-19 news conference that compared to last year, the region was experiencing a "250% increase" in registered cases.
"While delta is still causing new infections in the Americas, based on current trends, omicron is on track to become the dominant strain in our region," said Etienne.
She encouraged all regional health professionals to get their booster shots if they have not already done so, to "reinforce health workers ability to withstand exposure to the virus."
The agency's Deputy Director warned against dismissing the omicron variant as "simply flu-like" as people who are vaccinated appear to have less severe symptoms and much lower hospitalization rates.
"Many persons who have not yet been completely vaccinated and for those who have a comorbidity, an infection like omicron can become serious or very serious," said Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri.
The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries.
It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.
However, early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.
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