People are catching Omicron on purpose, and some are dying. It’s ‘like playing with dynamite’

January 20, 2022, 5:53 PM UTC

When getting Omicron seems inevitable, some people are taking matters into their own hands by deliberately catching COVID-19 to “get it all over with.”

Purposefully trying to catch Omicron—a variant that is widely reported as less severe than previous ones and likely to immunize you against future reinfection of COVID-19—has gained popularity in recent weeks with people who want to avoid more vaccinations or inopportune isolation. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. chief medical adviser, has even said the likelihood of anyone escaping Omicron is slim.

But a prominent English scientist argues that catching the new variant is “extremely misguided” and notes that it can have lethal consequences.

Dr. Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at London Medical Laboratory, says that “deliberately seeking to become infected is like playing with dynamite.”

While there is an argument that catching Omicron is equal to coming down with a bad cold, “it can rapidly escalate into a life-threatening disease, particularly for people with preexisting conditions,” Fivelman said in a note published Jan. 20.

Anecdotal evidence shows the “catching Omicron” trend is catching. Look no further than TikTok, where a number of recent videos show people deliberately trying to infect themselves at clubs and parties so they don’t miss out on upcoming events, like weddings. Others who have their own businesses with limited holiday times are timing their Omicron infections when demand isn’t so high.

A 39-year-old gym owner told ABC this week that he’s been trying to catch it. “Timing a COVID infection early in the new year made sense,” he said. “Most of my clients were also away, meaning I could get this out of the way and be available for work once I’d recovered.”

Fivelman cited the “tragic case” of the Czech folk singer Hana Horká, who died of COVID-19 on Wednesday after deliberately catching the virus from her son. She was unvaccinated at the time of infection and had said she caught Omicron in order to get a recovery pass to enter music venues.

By deliberately catching COVID-19, Fivelman wrote, there will be greater transmission of the virus to vulnerable people and children, which could possibly overwhelm already overstrained hospitals. There’s also the threat of an Omicron infection leading to long COVID, which could lead to ongoing fatigue and lack of breath for months, and that alone should be reason alone for people to stay on the safe side. 

Fivelman warned against anyone imitating “the latest American trend of deliberately catching the latest COVID-19 variant,” noting that many U.S. medical professionals have described it as “catching on like wildfire.” Simply put, he said, “there are several urban myths that have developed around Omicron that need to be stamped out.”

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