Omicron: The New COVID-19 Variant

What Does This Mean? 

A new variant of COVID-19, called Omicron, has been identified. The variant was reported to the WHO on November 26, 2021 by the South American government. The variant was recently detected in the United States. The positive case was reported in California, from a traveler who came from South Africa. 

Symptoms 

  • So far, the symptoms of the virus have been labeled as “extremely mild”. One patient said he just felt extremely tired and had a mild headache. Another reported a scratchy throat. So far none of the patients have reported the normal COVID symptoms, such as a loss of taste or smell, or a cough. More research is being conducted to learn what symptoms, if any, are attributed to the new variant. 

The new variant has people wondering about the effectiveness of the vaccine. Will it work against the variant? Here’s what we know: 

Vaccine Effectiveness 

  • Since the variant is so new, the effectiveness of the vaccine against the virus is unclear. Early findings suggest the variant may be more transmissible and able to evade the body’s immune response, with or without a vaccine. More information should be available within the next few weeks, however Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer reported that a reformulated vaccine that protects against Omicron will be available early next year. 

How can you best protect yourself from this variant? The best answer is that the old advice still stands. 

Protection From Omicron 

  • The best way to protect yourself from the new variant is to continue practicing your safe health habits. This includes wearing masks, washing your hands, and continuing to socially distance yourself. Doctors also recommend getting vaccinated, because even if this variant lessens the shots effectiveness, it is very unlikely that the vaccine will be rendered completely useless. 

As of right now, President Joe Biden says this new variant is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic”. The CDC is recommending all American adults get their booster shots. The World Health Organization has warned that the global risk posed by the spread of the variant is “very high”, and that all countries should do what they can to protect themselves from it. This will most likely mean more countries closing their borders and restricting travel. Research is being conducted to learn more about the variant, and the effectiveness of the vaccine against it.  

As always it is extremely important to do everything in your power to keep you and those around you healthy. Health + Wellness offers free COVID testing to all students and staff.  


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