Everything We Know About the Omicron Variant So Far

  • The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has officially been found in the United States; nine cases have been reported across five states so far.
  • First identified in South Africa in late November, Omicron has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.
  • Much is still unknown about the new COVID-19 variant, but it appears to be highly contagious; the CDC urges all eligible Americans to get vaccinated and boosted now.

Everything We Know About the Omicron Variant So Far
© Yuichiro Chino – Getty Images Experts say there’s a dangerous new variant replacing Delta—it’s called Omicron. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the Omicron variant poses ”high risk” globally—here’s what we know.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has officially reached the United States—but much is still unknown about the strain labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week.

For months now, the Delta variant has been the driving force behind the vast majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States and around the world; Delta made up 99.9% of domestic SARS-CoV-2 infections during the last week of November, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reveals.

But now, Omicron has the potential to spread more rapidly than Delta, according to public health experts. The “overall global risk” of Omicron is “very high,” the WHO warned in a brief this week. “Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations … some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.”

Despite tightened travel restrictions, the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, has been found for the first time this week in nine American patients in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, and New York.

But why are experts worried about Omicron? How contagious is the strain? And are the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters effective against it? Here’s everything you need to know about the Omicron variant, according to doctors.

What is the Omicron variant?

The Omicron variant, also called B.1.1.529, is a strain of COVID-19 that was first detected in South Africa on November 9 and reported to the WHO on November 24. “In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of [Omicron],” the agency wrote last week. Since then, its presence has only appeared to grow—as of last week, Omicron infections were increasing in nearly all provinces in South Africa. (There is no indication the variant originated in South Africa; that’s simply where it was first detected.)

Preliminary research suggests that the new variant, which has many mutations in its spike protein, poses an increased risk of reinfection, the WHO notes. “This variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage,” the organization says. Omicron has been detected in South Africa, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia, according to the Associated Press, along with the two United States cases so far.

It’s unclear whether Omicron causes more severe illness than other variants, including Delta. “Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron,” the WHO writes.

For now, there’s a lot we don’t know about Omicron, including its transmissibility compared to other forms of SARS-CoV-2 like Delta, its impact on vaccines, and whether or not it causes more severe disease. Because it’s still so new, more time and research are necessary before drawing conclusions.

How effective are vaccines and boosters against the new variant?

As the WHO stresses, experts can’t say yet what the vaccine efficacy against the Omicron variant is; there is not enough research to understand how the available COVID-19 vaccines and boosters interact with the new strain.

“We know what it takes to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC explains. Along with prevention strategies like wearing face masks in public, washing your hands frequently, and practicing physical distancing, the agency recommends that everyone age 5 and above get vaccinated and eligible adults get booster shots.

“It appears that the hospitalized patients in South Africa [who were infected with Omicron] were largely unvaccinated, arguing vaccines protect against what matters,” says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

“We know almost nothing about Omicron,” explains Kawsar Talaat, M.D., an infectious disease doctor, vaccine researcher, and assistant professor in the department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University. “It is possible that boosters will be necessary to help protect against infections with this variant. We just don’t know because we don’t have that data yet.”

But as long as you’re fully vaccinated—and especially if you’re boosted—you’re probably as protected as you can be right now. “If you are fully vaccinated and you’ve received your booster shot, your degree of protection is extraordinarily high,” says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. “That would provide a buffer, even if this variant is more resistant to vaccination than earlier versions.”

He explains that it’s “unquestionable” that the higher degree of protection from COVID-19 you have “the better off you are with this variant and with others as well. … [This] should re-emphasize the importance for the unvaccinated to get vaccinated and those who are eligible to get their booster shots.”

What are the symptoms of the Omicron variant?

According to the WHO, there is no information to suggest that Omicron has symptoms that are different from other COVID-19 strains. “Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks, the WHO says.

These are the symptoms of COVID-19, which would include Omicron, per the CDC:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How worried should you be about Omicron?

Although public health experts are expressing concern about the Omicron variant, the overwhelming message is that no one should panic—there’s still a lot to learn about the new strain, and the news might not be all bad.

“I do think it’s more contagious when you look at how rapidly it spread through multiple districts in South Africa,” Francis Collins, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “It has the earmarks, therefore, of being particularly likely to spread from one person to another. What we don’t know is whether it can compete with Delta.”

“I know, America, you’re really tired of hearing about those things,” he added, “but the virus is not tired of us.”

“It’s too early to know what level of threat B.1.1.529 constitutes as there is not enough information—particularly clinical information—about the cases that have been identified,” Dr. Adalja explains. We still require “a lot of investigation to characterize what it may mean for immunity—vaccine and infection-induced—as well as monoclonal antibodies.”

“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” President Joe Biden said on December 2. “We moved forward in the face of Covid-19 Delta variant, and we’ll move forward in the face of the Omicron variant as well.”

“The most important thing is to get your first series of vaccines,” Dr. Talaat says. “If you haven’t already been vaccinated, this is a really good time to get vaccinated, because Delta is about to surge again. We don’t know what’s going to happen with Omicron, and the best way to protect yourself and the people you love around you is to get vaccinated.”

Try 200+ at home workout videos from Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention, and more on All Out Studio free for 14 days!

News Related


Dharma Files | How India and Bharat are not just two names for the nation, they represent two competing visions

© Provided by Firstpost Dharma Files | How India and Bharat are not just two names for the nation, they represent two competing visions William Shakespeare’s line — What’s in ... Read more »

PM Modi pays tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary

© Provided by The Statesman PM Modi pays tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Union Minister and ... Read more »

The hounding of author Kate Clanchy has been a witch-hunt without mercy

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian A few years ago, when I was still getting to grips with the vagaries of Twitter, I inadvertently took part in ... Read more »

Delivery race among Indian grocery startups brings road safety risks

© Reuters/ANUSHREE FADNAVIS A delivery person leaves a dark store of the SoftBank-funded Blinkit in New Delhi By Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian grocery startups ... Read more »

Recovery stocks: the IAG vs Rolls-Royce share price rated

pensive bearded business man sitting on chair looking out of the window There are two stocks in the FTSE 100 that look to me to be some of the top ... Read more »

Nets finally getting contributions from their centers

MINNEAPOLIS — It seems as if Nets coach Steve Nash spent the first half of the season shuffling and reshuffling the center position without ever finding what he wanted. But ... Read more »

'Take action': Savers and NS&I customers told as retirees warned about 'Silver Inflation'

It rose by 5.4 percent, up from 5.1 percent in November 2021. This is the highest CPI 12-month inflation rate in the National Statistic data series which began in January ... Read more »

Chace Crawford of The Boys is spotted hanging out with a friend

Chace Crawford grabbed lunch with friend in Los Feliz on Saturday. The actor, 36, stepped out in a form-fitting long sleeve t-shirt as he enjoyed a sunny Los Angeles afternoon. ... Read more »

Time's up for bad-team bully Joe Root. How about Captain Broad?

Seven weeks ago, at the start of the Ashes, Joe Root made a strikingly clear statement. “Of course it will define my captaincy,” he said. “I’m not naive enough to ... Read more »

Omicron in Community Transmission Stage in India, Has Become Dominant in Metros Reporting Surge: INSACOG

© Provided by News18 Omicron in Community Transmission Stage in India, Has Become Dominant in Metros Reporting Surge: INSACOG The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is in the community transmission stage ... Read more »

Cosmic Cow Events Give Birth to Black Holes and Neutron Stars, Study Finds

© Provided by News18 Cosmic Cow Events Give Birth to Black Holes and Neutron Stars, Study Finds A bright blast from a faraway galaxy 200 million light-years away on June ... Read more »

Budget 2022: Why healthcare policies need to factor entire value chain from prevention, diagnosis, treatment to insurance coverage

© Provided by Firstpost Budget 2022: Why healthcare policies need to factor entire value chain from prevention, diagnosis, treatment to insurance coverage Although healthcare has always been an evolving field ... Read more »

PM Modi to unveil Nejati Subhas Chandra Bose's hologram statue at India Gate today

© Provided by DNA Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be unveiling a hologram statue of renowned freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at the India Gate on Sunday, January 23, ... Read more »

Opinion: The drive for re-election is a major flaw of modern democracy

© Shutterstock I’m friday MODERN DEMOCRACY, WITH universal male and female suffrage, is only a century old. It is worth keeping in mind just how new our system of government ... Read more »

Connacht facing tough French exam against Stade in Paris today

THERE IS NO Bundee Aki on the plane to Paris today. No Ultan Dillane either. Kieran Marmion – another one of Connacht’s poster boys – is also unavailable for their ... Read more »

Find out what Anushka Sharma is eating in her yummy breakfast today; See Pic

Anushka Sharma is one of the top-most actresses in our Bollywood industry. The PK actress is currently in Cape Town with hubby Virat Kohli and her daughter Vamika. She keeps ... Read more »

Priyanka Chopra's cousin confirms actor welcomed baby girl, says 'She always wanted to have lots of kids'

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: Priyanka Chopra’s cousin Meera Chopra has now confirmed that the actor has become a mother to a ‘baby girl’.  In an interview with ... Read more »

Anirudh Pisharody joins 'Never Have I Ever' Season 3

© IANS Anirudh Pisharody.(photo:IMDB.com) Los Angeles, Jan 23 (IANS) ‘9-1-1’ and ‘The Goldbergs’ actor Anirudh Pisharody has been tapped for a recurring role in the third season of ‘Never Have ... Read more »

PHOTOS: Rakul Preet Singh keeps it simple in a green chikankari set as she gets papped with mom

When it comes to pulling off an ethnic look, Rakul Preet Singh can never go wrong. She knows to style even a simple outfit with ultimate elegance. The stunner was ... Read more »

3 delicious sugar-free snack recipes to try if you have diabetes

Silent killer diabetes is also a killjoy for ‘always hungry’ folks! While this health condition is a permanent one, you don’t always need to crush your hunger pangs. The good ... Read more »

Dhanush's brother Selvaraghavan tests positive for COVID-19; Urges fans to mask up

© Provided by Pinkvilla Well known director Selvaraghavan, who is also the brother of actor Dhanush, on Sunday announced that he has tested positive for Covid-19. Taking to Twitter, Selvaraghavan ... Read more »

One surrendered Hong Kong hamster tests COVID positive as city lockdown grows

© Reuters/TYRONE SIU COVID-19 in Hong Kong By James Pomfret HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities said on Sunday one hamster surrendered to authorities by pet-owners had tested positive ... Read more »

Clarence Thomas' wife spoke at a conservative conference featuring the founder of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group involved in the Capitol riot

© Drew Angerer/Getty Images Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sits with his wife and conservative activist Virginia Thomas while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation on October ... Read more »

Berlusconis grosse Enttäuschung – 48 Stunden vor der Wahl

Silvio Berlusconi gibt auf. Italiens Präsidentenwahl, die am Montag beginnt, ist auch wenige Stunden vor dem ersten Durchgang ein offenes Rennen. Als Favoriten gelten nun Mario Draghi und der Christdemokrat ... Read more »

Seoul says it paid Iran's delinquent UN dues to restore vote

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Using Iranian bank funds freed from American sanctions, South Korea has paid Iran’s $18 million in delinquent dues owed to the United Nations, Seoul said ... Read more »

Mcap of top-10 most valued companies erodes by over Rs 2.53 lakh cr

New Delhi: The top-10 most valued companies suffered a combined erosion of Rs 2.53 lakh crore in market valuation last week, as the domestic equity benchmarks witnessed heavy selling in ... Read more »

German navy chief resigns over controversial Ukraine comments

© Provided by Al Jazeera Schoenbach’s comments, captured on video, caused anger in Ukraine and the German ambassador was summoned to receive its objections [Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies ... Read more »

These hotel openings in India will make you want to plan a trip ASAP!

© Provided by Lifestyle Asia The year may not have started on a great note, but there is a silver lining! When you are ready to pack your bags again, ... Read more »

UP polls: After Priyanka Gandhi Vadra questions BSP's 'low profile campaign', Mayawati hits back

© Provided by Zee News Lucknow: Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Sunday said Congress’ is so miserable it ‘changed’ its Chief Minister face for Uttar Pradesh polls within hours ... Read more »

Tonga struggles with ash, psychological trauma after eruption and tsunami

© Reuters/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES A satellite image shows Mango islands after Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption, in Tonga By Kirsty Needham (Reuters) – Families have stopped children playing outside as Tonga ... Read more »

Far-right extremists and jihadists must be punished equally, solicitor general says as neo-Nazi cases rise

Far-right extremists and jihadists must be punished equally, the solicitor general has said amid a rise in terror cases involving neo-Nazis. Government minister Alex Chalk QC made the comments after ... Read more »

Boris Johnson at moment of maximum danger as partygate report looms

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters Early last week a call came into the office of a senior cabinet minister from one of Boris Johnson’s team at Downing ... Read more »

Gucci Ad Draws Flak for Using Tigers, Carole Baskin from Netflix Show Slams Fashion Brand

© Provided by News18 Gucci Ad Draws Flak for Using Tigers, Carole Baskin from Netflix Show Slams Fashion Brand Animal rights activist Carole Baskin has objected to Italian luxury fashion ... Read more »

Dementia: The 'afternoon snack' that may increase your risk of Alzheimer's - study warning

Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms associated with worsening brain decline. The main cause is Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterised by an abnormal build-up of proteins in and around ... Read more »

Briton dies, another severely injured in Thailand after knife attack, police say

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A 49-year-old Briton was found dead at his home with knife wounds in western Thailand, and a Thai suspect was in custody, police said on Sunday. Another ... Read more »

Republic Day 2022: History and significance

Republic Day 2022: History and significance India observes Republic Day on January 26, every year. Republic Day marks an important event in India’s history. It commemorates the enactment of the ... Read more »

Fashion Faceoff: Deepika Padukone or Parineeti Chopra: Who wore the Ritika Mirchandani sharara set better?

Way too many celebratory ceremonies are on our radar and to pull off an unequivocal sartorial game with one outfit at a time stays key. We’ve always believed that the ... Read more »

ED may arrest Satyendar Jain soon, alleges Arvind Kejriwal; invites Centre to raid Manish Sisodia, Bhagwant Mann

© Provided by Jagran English New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal in a statement on Sunday alleged that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is ... Read more »

US: Lab monkeys found and killed after Pennsylvania road crash

© Provided by DW The accident triggered a large-scale police hunt Three monkeys have been found and killed after the vehicle carrying them to a laboratory crashed in the US ... Read more »

French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin dies during Atlantic crossing bid

© Provided by DW Jean-Jacques Savin said he was attempting the Atlantic crossing ‘to laugh at old age’ French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin was found dead in the cabin of his ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic