Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know
Scientists provide extensive information about the variant as well as how to stay as safe as possible.
- By Shereen Hashem
- Jan 06, 2022
The CDC has been collaborating with global public health and industry partners to learn about Omicron. It is still unknown how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes or how well available vaccines and medications work against it. According to an article, the variant will likely spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta is unknown. CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the disease to others even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
More data is needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants. Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to infection with the variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death. “The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.”
Scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of Omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective. Medical experts continue to encourage getting vaccinated for everyone five years and older as well as get the booster. The CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.
Two types of tests are used to test for current infection: nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests. NAAT and antigen tests can only tell you if you have a current infection. People can use the COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool to help determine what kind of test to use. Additional tests would be needed to determine if your infection was caused by Omicron.
CDC scientists are working with partners to gather data and virus samples that can be studied to answer important questions about the Omicron variant. Scientific experiments have already started. The CDC says it will provide updates as soon as possible.
Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.