COVID-19 cases spike overseas, what to expect in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Nearly half of all European countries are seeing an uptick in new COVID-19 cases. So, what does that mean for us in Wisconsin?

State health officials said they are closely monitoring the rise in cases overseas that are being attributed to a "stealth" subvariant of the omicron strain. New infections are increasing dramatically in the U.K, France, Switzerland, and many other countries as some relax COVID-19 mitigation efforts and the new subvariant spreads.

Epidemiologist Dr. Ajay Sethi said that doesn't mean there's cause for immediate concern in the U.S, but said it's another reminder the pandemic is not over.

"It's something to keep an eye out for, but it's much more complex than saying it's rising elsewhere and it's inevitable it will rise here," Sethi said.

Many health experts say it's too early to determine whether a new COVID-19 wave is on the horizon because each country varies by immunity and vaccination levels.

Sethi said it's also hard to make comparisons because some eastern countries in Asia have different vaccines than the ones administered in the U.S.

"Some of the vaccines are not as effective against breakthrough infections or protecting against severe disease," said Sethi. "The vaccines in the U.S are an effective tool to prevent the spread of variants."

Cases in Wisconsin continue to dwindle after the omicron surge, but health officials are remaining vigilant.

"I think it's preparing for what is pretty known as unknown," said Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee, Wisconsin Department of Health Services. "That is a scenario that could very easily come to pass, and we need to be ready for it."

For some cities, wastewater data does show a slight uptick in new COVID-19 infections. State health data shows Milwaukee recorded a 'major increase' over the last few weeks, but officials say those trends are expected.

"An uptick is not by itself a cause for alarm, revert to March of 2020. It will be something to investigate," Timberlake said.

Over the next few days to weeks, state health professionals said they will get a better understanding of the trends in wastewater to determine how prevalent COVID-19 is in communities.

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