A new study conducted in the United States shows just how rampant Covid has become in society.
Following the record surge in cases during the Omicron-driven wave, 58 per cent of the US population overall and more than 75 per cent of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the US blood survey.
The study issued by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the US population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in similar nations.
Before Omicron arrived in December of 2021, a third of the US population had evidence of a prior Covid infection.
Omicron drove up infections in every age group, according to the new data, but children and adolescents – many of whom remain unvaccinated – had the highest rates of infection while people 65 and older – a heavily vaccinated population – had the lowest.
During the December to February period – when Omicron cases were raging in the United States – 75.2 per cent of children aged 11 and younger had infection-related antibodies in their blood, up from 44.2 per cent in the prior three-month period.
Among those 12-17, 74.2 per cent carried antibodies, up from 45.6 per cent from September to December.
Scientists looked for specific antibodies produced in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are only present after an infection and are not generated by Covid-19 vaccines.
Trace amounts of these antibodies can remain in the blood for as long as two years.
"Having infection-induced antibodies does not necessarily mean you are protected against future infection," the CDC's Kristie Clarke, co-author of the study, said during a media briefing.
"We did not look at whether people had a level of antibodies that provides protection against reinfection or severe disease."
Despite the widespread infection rate, ongoing Covid infections in the US are on the upswing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, rising 22.7 per cent in the past week to 44,000 per day.
Hospitalisations rose for the second week in a row, up 6.6 per cent, largely driven by subvariants of Omicron.
While deaths fell 13.2 per cent, week-over-week, the US is fast approaching the grim milestone of one million total virus-related deaths.
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