Health experts hoping for Covid immunity boost post-omicron surge

NOW: Health experts hoping for Covid immunity boost post-omicron surge

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Experts say the omicron variant has not reached its peak.

Cities like Milwaukee implemented mask mandates once again, as numbers continue to climb.

Health officials say the pandemic could improve after we reach the peak.

That's if a more infectious variant doesn't pop up again.

"Omicron was really a surprise, about how quickly and severe that took off. I think we were all expecting that we were going to have a long, hard winter with a lot of cases driven by delta," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases chief medical officer.

Wisconsin DHS officials say they're hoping the huge amount of people getting omicron, combined with vaccinations, could lead to more immunity.

"On the other side of this current surge, where people are becoming infected in greater numbers than ever, I think you're right, we're going to have a lot of people that have some level of immune system protection," said Dr. Westergaard.

Dr. Nilanjan Lodh, Marquette University's infectious disease expert, says he doesn't know if increased immunity will downgrade the pandemic to an endemic.

"We probably will not reach that endemic situation, which will be more of a localized outbreak of cases, very soon," said Dr. Lodh.

He said right now, omicron is making the virus replicate quickly, which can lead to new mutations.

According to Lodh, those new mutations could be more or less infectious.

"That's what the virus wants, and as this is going on -- and there's a lot of people who still not vaccinated or not able to get vaccinated for other medical reasons -- the virus has more opportunity to mutate," said Dr. Lodh.

The fewer people vaccinated, the greater the opportunity for other variants to arise, like the IHU variant identified in France.

Health officials said the IHU variant isn't a major concern right now.

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