COVID-19: What Is The Omicron Variant?

Everything You Should Know About The Newest Strain Of The COVID-19 Virus

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a persistent, ongoing issue drastically affecting all of our lives over the past year and a half. While we’ve been able to greatly mitigate the adverse effects it’s had on our lives thanks to game-changing medical advancements like vaccines, antiviral drugs, PCR Self Tests, and rapid-emergency home care visits, the pandemic is still an ongoing, continuous problem that has yet to be resolved.

Last week, the world got a very grim reminder that COVID-19 remains a persistent problem after the World Health Organization announced that it has discovered cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, and officially declared it a variant of concern.

With perhaps the most ominous Latin-alphabet based naming convention yet, a lot of concern and uncertainty has sweltered around this newest discovered Omicron strain of the virus. How transmissible is this variant? What are its symptoms? How can we best prepare ourselves for it? There is a lot scientists still have to ascertain about the Omicron variant, but here’s what you ought to know right now.

What We Know About The Omicron Variant

While Omicron was declared a “variant of concern”, we will only really see over the next few weeks how much concern it will actually warrant. Just because a strain of a virus is declared a variant of concern, it doesn’t automatically mean that concern will be substantiated – the Beta variant and Gamma variant were designated “variants of concern”, but fortunately did not spread as widely as the Delta variant.

While we still have yet to fully understand how damaging the Omicron variant truly is, the good news is that it doesn’t seem super out-of-the-ordinary insofar as its effects on people. Although the doctor who first discovered the Omicron variant in South Africa observed particularly unusual symptoms in her patients, Dr. Angelique Coetzee remarked that these cases were “extremely mild” so far in interviews to the media.

Although we have yet to see how effective our current treatment measures will really be against the Omicron variant, that seems to be a good sign that they likely will. If the variant has a similar makeup to other coronavirus variants, we may not need any major pharmaceutical drug or vaccination reformulations. However, the main reason public officials are remaining vigilant about declaring Omicron a “variant of concern” is due to the speed of it’s spread.

"It seems to have really spread rather rapidly in South Africa, even though the numbers are relatively small, its ability to infect people who have recovered from infection and even people who have been vaccinated make us say, 'This is something you've got to pay really close attention to, and be prepared for something that's serious,'" remarked Dr. Anthony Fauci, "It may not turn out that way, but you really want to be ahead of it, and that's the reason why we're doing what we're doing."

Although the spread speed raised some concerns for Fauci, he also stressed to the public (in a CBS interview) that “we should not be freaking out”. "We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work." President Biden also took the time to stress in another CBS News Special Report that the new variant is “cause for concern, not a cause for panic”.

It isn’t yet known whether or not new, reformulated vaccine batches will be needed to treat the Omicron variant, but the good news is that multiple vaccine manufacturers have said that they can release reformulated versions of their current products (if needed) come early 2022, with Pfizer claiming it can do this within “100 days”.

Omicron also doesn’t seem to be maligning the elderly and immunocompromised - two of the most at-risk demographics in light of this pandemic - any more harshly than other COVID-19 variants at this time. Per the W.H.O., “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.”

Multiple research and treatment efforts are being collaborated on all around the globe as of writing this. Ultimately, these efforts are bound to bare fruit and add more clarity to the facts with time, but in the meantime, we would strongly encourage readers to adhere to the CDC’s current COVID-19 safety guidelines, follow any updated recommendations should things change with new information, and consider browsing our databases for affordable healthcare providers and treatment options if you need them.

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