New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that a significant amount of people in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19. More specifically, about 60% of the U.S. population and 75% of U.S. children have had COVID-19.

This number, which translates to roughly 200 million people, is much higher than the ones reported by the CDC, which tallied the count at 80.8 million cases.

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Researchers analyzed thousands of blood samples submitted for clinical testing on a weekly basis, using data on antibodies to compile the numbers. Antibodies developed out of natural infection are different than the ones that people develop due to vaccines, making it possible for researchers to pinpoint whether people were infected with the virus even if they didn’t experience symptoms or had a COVID-19 test.

Through these tests, researchers were able to spot the various waves of the virus. By December 2021, about 34% of the U.S. population was infected. By February 2022, these numbers had increased to 58%, marking the wave of the Omicron variant.

Still, these numbers might not be wholly accurate. Some caveats of the study include that reinfections were impossible to pinpoint. The evidence was also gathered through blood tests, meaning that people with access to these services are likely overrepresented and don’t paint a full picture of the COVID-19 situation in the U.S.

This discrepancy between reported cases and the reality of the disease is due to the fact that many people who contract COVID-19 don’t develop symptoms, don’t get tested at home, or simply don’t get tested at all. This new evidence shows a more accurate picture that can keep experts and the public better informed on this stage of the pandemic.

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Researchers continue to stress the importance of vaccines as the main defense against the COVID-19. Vaccines are the most efficient way of protecting children, older adults, and those with immunocompromised systems, providing fuller protection than the one granted by a natural infection.

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