The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently announced the emergence of a new concerning strain of COVID-19. It has been named the Omicron variant, and while it may take weeks to know the full scope of what to expect from this variant, here is some of what we know.
- Omicron has been found in many countries. The Omicron variant was initially reported to WHO by South African doctors who noticed a drastically different symptom profile among some patients. However, with further investigation, Omicron has been found in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, and many Western European countries. This has lead to travel restrictions between the United States and African countries, which can be found in more detail on the CDC webpage (link).
- Symptoms are different than other strains. Patients with the Omicron variant have reported milder symptoms. This variant does not produce the loss of taste or smell that has been characteristic of other COVID-19 variants. Instead, there may be a throat soreness or “scratchiness”, much like some other respiratory diseases. Fatigue and body aches are also reported by patients.
- Possibility of Reinfection. While the milder symptoms of Omicron are promising, the mutation of the virus means that less immunity for those who have had other variants of COVID-19. It has also led to increased infectivity and less effectiveness from the available vaccines.
- Treatable and Preventable. The good news is that treatment and prevention of the Omicron Variant is the same as other forms of COVID-19. The vaccine still reduces transmission and severity of the illness, particularly for those with a 3rd dose “booster”. Transmission can be prevented by the same behaviors the CDC has recommended throughout 2020: socially distance when possible, wash your hands, and wear a mask in public.
The Omicron Variant has yet to enter McDonough County, but we will keep you updated on any announcements and best practices to keep you safe during this holiday season.