Fact check: The theory that SARS-CoV-2 is becoming milder

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2022-01-15 17:00:08

There's a growing narrative in the mainstream media, on social media — maybe even at your dinner table. That is: The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is weakening and evolving into a less deadly virus. In the future, each new variant that crops up will cause milder illness than the previous variant.

"There's this story that we're going to have variants that are progressively less severe," says Dr. Roby Bhattacharyya, who's an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

But that's completely untrue, Bhattacharyya says. "It's comforting to think there might be some tendency for SARS-CoV-2 to evolve toward a milder form. That's not what we're seeing here."

This narrative has arisen over the past month as scientists and doctors increasingly find evidence that the omicron variant of the coronavirus is less likely to cause severe disease than previous variants.

Data from hospitals in South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S. all suggest that the risk of a patient with omicron being admitted to a hospital is about half that observed with the delta variant. If you are admitted to the hospital, the risk of being put on a ventilator has dropped by about 75%.

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