Omicron FAQ: 8 important things to know about the new COVID variant today – Community News
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Omicron FAQ: 8 important things to know about the new COVID variant today

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The ommicron variant is a cause of concern worldwide.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Visit the WHO and CDC websites for the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic.

The ommicron variant of COVID-19 has now been confirmed in at least 16 US states and is “likely to increase,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, op Sunday this week. While the delta variant of COVID accounts for 99.9% of U.S. cases, Walensky said, omicron is spreading rapidly. A leading European health agency predicts that ommicron could become the dominant strain of COVID-19 within months (more on that below).

More than 5.2 million deaths have been reported worldwide from COVID-19.

In the US, President Joe Biden is doubling down on push for vaccines and booster shots until more information is available. Experts warn it could be two or three weeks before we know exactly how contagious omicron is and whether it can cause more serious illness than other mutations of the virus.

So far, the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death, with unvaccinated people more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized if infected. Vaccine makers are optimistic that current vaccines approved for use in the US will also provide some degree of protection against omicron.

Here are eight important things to know about ommicron today. To learn more about COVID boosters, here’s an easy trick make an appointment and free ride. You will soon receive a COVID test kit for free and details about mix and match vaccines.


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Omicron could become the dominant COVID variant in Europe in months

Omicron could become the most common COVID variant in months, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

“Mathematical modelling [sic] indicates that the Omicron VOC is expected to cause more than half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA in the coming months” due to early insights into the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant between humans, it said center in a Dec. 2 short.

Scientists studying the ommicron variant in South Africa, where it was first reported to the World Health Organization, have said it spreads more than twice as fast as the delta variant. But what is not yet known is that the spread is being accelerated because the mutations make it easier to spread among people, if vaccines are less effective against this strain or for some other reason. The study cited by the New York Times has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.

Omicron has already been confirmed in 16 US states

First it was Minnesota, then California and now Hawaii, New York and in between. The US and other countries are already bracing for a bigger caseload as colder weather and revelry drove more people inside. Now concerns about a winter wave of the dominant delta variant are converging with concerns about the spread of ommicron.

Omicron has similarities with the mutation of the delta variant

COVID clings to cells using a spike protein in its structure. Omicron has more mutations than the delta variant, which is considered to be at least twice as contagious as previous strains. While it’s not yet clear whether omicron is more or less contagious than delta, the presence of those mutations is a cause for concern.

That might be one of the reasons countries around the world have this: prohibited travel from some countries in southern Africa and increased travel restrictions that contain a negative COVID test 24 hours before departure, regardless of vaccination status.

It’s not clear how current vaccines will respond to ommicron

Scientists are testing whether omicron can cause breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated and reinfections in people who have antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection. It may take two to three weeks for sufficient test data to show how effective the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are at protecting against the omicron mutation. However, scientists are hopeful that current vaccines will continue to protect against the new variant.

“We think it’s likely that people will have substantial protection against serious diseases caused by omicron,” BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin said during an interview with Reuters on Tuesday. BioNTech partnered with Pfizer to make one of the US-approved vaccines.

Still, the fact that omicron has mutated and spread rapidly has set off at least one alarm bell.

“The emergence of the highly mutated omicron variant underscores how dangerous and precarious our situation is,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, leader of the World Health Organization, on Nov. 29.

Most PCR tests to determine the presence of COVID-19 in the body are free (COVID tests for international travel are the main exception). So it’s good news that the existing nasal swab test has detected the omicron variant – a blood test or other procedure is not necessary so far.

“Luckily for us, the PCRs we usually use would pick up this very unusual variant that has a really large constellation of mutations,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, in a news conference on Nov. 29.

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Drug manufacturers are investigating whether the current vaccines are effective against the new variant.

Sarah Tew/CNET

COVID PCR testing can identify the ommicron variant

Most PCR tests to determine the presence of COVID-19 in the body are free (COVID tests for international travel are the main exception). So it’s good news that the existing nasal swab test has detected the omicron variant – a blood test or other procedure is not necessary so far.

“Luckily for us, the PCRs we usually use would pick up this very unusual variant that has a really large constellation of mutations,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, in a news conference Nov. 29.

Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson Evaluate Plan B

moderna: Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton told the BBC his company has hundreds of people researching the effectiveness of its current vaccine and booster containing the variant. Moderna is also testing a COVID-19 vaccine that could protect against several mutated strains of the coronavirus, looking at an ommicron-specific booster vaccine. Burton said if Moderna needs to create a new vaccine adapted for the variant, it could be available in early 2022.

Pfizer: A Pfizer spokesperson said the company is “constantly conducting surveillance efforts aimed at monitoring emerging variants that may be escaping protection by our vaccine.”

The spokesperson said Pfizer could develop and manufacture a custom vaccine against that variant in about 100 days.

Johnson & Johnson: Johnson & Johnson said it is working with scientists in South Africa and around the world to evaluate the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine against the omicron variant and has begun work on a new vaccine designed for omicron, if required.

Booster shots and vaccines are recommended to help prevent the spread of omicron

On Thursday, Biden announced that plan to help protect the US from the ommicron variant this winter. It includes:

  • Outreach programs to contact people who qualify for booster shots.
  • To make home COVID tests “free” for everyone.
  • Stricter travel restrictions requiring a negative COVID test 24 hours prior to departure.
  • Paid leave for federal workers to get booster shots.
  • To secure antiviral pills as treatment for people who become infected with COVID-19 (these are recommended but not yet approved by the FDA).
  • Send 200 million additional doses of COVID vaccine to international countries in the next 100 days (280 million have already been shipped).

Omicron is pronounced in these ways

The World Health Organization assigns Greek letters to the main COVID variants to help the public easily remember and pronounce the different mutations of the virus. When it was first announced, search interest in the Greek letters “omicron” and “omega” rose as people searched for information about the new variant. So far, we’ve heard the new ommicron variant pronounced by global health leaders as: OH-me-cron, OH-mih-cron and OH-my-crown (some of this comes down to ancient Greek).

Here’s what you need to know for additional COVID guidelines: new travel restrictions, how keep your vaccination card on your phone and what to do if you lose your vaccination card.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.