By Virtue Medical Group / Created on: December 22, 2021
What is Omicron and how can you prevent infection?
What is the Omicron Variant?
The coronavirus variant, Omicron of COVID-19 has been termed as a deadly variant by World Health Organization (WHO) based on the fact that it has numerous mutations that may affect how it spreads. Generally, there is significant uncertainty about this variant and a lot of research is being performed to assess the transmission, severeness, and risk of reinfection.
Where did the Omicron Variant come from?
On 24th November 2021, a unique variant of SARS-CoV-2 was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). The new coronavirus variant was first identified in samples collected on 11th November 2021 in Botswana and later on 14th November 2021 was detected in South Africa.
On 26th November 2021, WHO named the new variant Omicron and categorized it as a ‘Variant of Concern’. On 30th November 2021, the USA classified the Omicron variant as a VOC, and by 1st Dec 2021, the USA had the first case of Omicron detected in its premises.
Evolving variants like Omicron are a constant reminder that the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is still looming. People need to get vaccinated when available to them and continue following the existing protocol to prevent the infection and transmission of the virus, such as wearing masks, physical distancing, regular handwashing, and keeping indoors sufficiently ventilated.
According to the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), the proliferation rate of this variant is still being studied, and therefore, the severity of sickness it can cause or how effective are the available medications and vaccines against it are not completely known.
Facts about Omicron Variant
Proliferation and Infection
The variant omicron spread more rapidly than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, how easily does the omicron variant proliferates as compared to the Delta variant is still unknown. CDC believes that anybody infected by Omicron can transmit the virus to others, despite the fact they are vaccinated or are asymptomatic.
- More information and details are needed to know if omicron infections and reinfections in fully vaccinated individuals, cause more severe sickness or death than other variant infections.
- Existing vaccines are believed to provide a shield against severe sickness, hospitalizations, and death because of the Omicron infection. Nonetheless, breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people are expected to occur. With other variants like the Delta variant, vaccines have continued to be effective at preventing severe sickness, hospitalizations, and death. The newest emergence of Omicron further urges the significance of vaccinations and booster shots.
- Researchers continue working to assess how sufficient are the existing treatments for COVID-19. Depending on the evolved genetic structure of omicron variants, some treatments are expected to continue being effective while others may be less effective.
- The Omicron variant has been identified in different parts of the world. WHO informed that the likelihood of the variant transmitting further worldwide is significantly high.
What are common symptoms of the variant?
No information suggests that the Omicron variant causes different symptoms from other COVID-19 variants.
Is it possible to get reinfected with the new variant?
According to WHO, early evidence shows that people who have been previously infected with COVID-19 can be reinfected more easily with the new Omicron variant, as compared to other VOCs. Further research is still underway and the updates of it will be circulated once it becomes available.
How do I test and detect if I have the variants?
The commonly and broadly used PCR tests continue to identify the Omicron variant. Studies are ongoing to examine any impacts on other types of tests, such as a rapid antigen.
Who is at higher risk for getting infected by the Omicron variant?
Research is ongoing into Omicron’s transmission, and it will be updated as more information becomes available. Nonetheless, people who are socially engaging, unvaccinated, and not following the protocol are more susceptible to contracting the COVID-19, irrespective of the variant.
How to prevent the variant
Vaccines continue to be the public health strategy to protect people from the COVID-19, slow transmission, and minimize the likelihood of the emergence of new variants. COVID-19 vaccines are strongly effective at the prevention of severe sickness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Researchers are investigating Omicron, specifically how protected fully vaccinated individuals will be against infection, hospitalization, and deaths. CDC suggests that everybody aged 5 years and older must protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting the full doses of vaccines. CDC also recommends that everybody aged 18 and above must get a booster shot at least after two months of their initial J&J/Janssen vaccines or after six months of completing their initial COVID-19 vaccination series of Moderna, Pfizer, or BioNTech.
Masks are the best protection against all COVID-19 variants. CDC continues to urge the world to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of significant or high community transmission, irrespective of the vaccination status.
COVID tests can inform if you are currently infected with the coronavirus. Two types of tests are being used to test the infection: nucleic acid amplification tests and antigen tests. Antigen and NAAT tests can solely tell if you have caught the infections. People can use the COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool to determine which test they need to seek. Additional tests would be required to know for sure if your infection was caused by Omicron. Regularly visit the local health department’s website to stay updated on the latest information on testing.
Self-tests can be performed at home or anywhere; they are easy to use and give rapid results. If you get a positive in a self-test, stay at home or stay in isolation for ten days, wear a mask in case you need to contact others, and call the healthcare provider. If you have any further queries about the self-test result, contact your public health department, or healthcare provider.
The most significant thing to do during the pandemic crises is to reduce the risk of catching the virus, and exposure to it. To protect yourself and your loved ones against the omicron variant is to make sure to wear a mask, keep a physical distance of at least 1 meter (6 feet), avoid crowded spaces, and do regular handwashing.