Omicron FAQ: 8 key issues to know in regards to the new COVID variant right now
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Omicron FAQ: 8 key issues to know in regards to the new COVID variant right now


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The omicron variant is elevating world concern.


Sarah Tew/CNET

For essentially the most up-to-date information and details about the coronavirus pandemic, go to the WHO and CDC web sites.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 has now been confirmed in no less than 16 US states and is “prone to rise,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, mentioned on Sunday on This Week. Though the delta variant of COVID makes up 99.9% of US circumstances, Walensky mentioned, omicron is spreading shortly. A number one European well being company predicts omicron might change into the dominant COVID pressure in months (extra beneath.)

There have been greater than 5.2 million reported deaths worldwide because of COVID-19.

Within the US, President Joe Biden is doubling down on urging vaccines and booster photographs till extra data turns into out there. Specialists warning it may very well be two or three weeks earlier than we all know precisely how contagious omicron is and if it might trigger extra extreme sickness than different mutations of the virus.

Up to now, the COVID-19 vaccines have proved to be extremely efficient in stopping hospitalization and loss of life, with people who find themselves unvaccinated being greater than 10 instances extra prone to be hospitalized if contaminated. Vaccine-makers are optimistic the present vaccines approved to be used within the US will present a level of safety in opposition to omicron, too.

Listed here are eight vital issues to learn about omicron right now. For extra on COVID boosters, here is a trick to simply get an appointment and free journey. This is how you will quickly get a COVID check package without spending a dime and particulars on mixing and matching 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] signifies that the Omicron VOC is predicted to trigger over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections within the EU/EEA inside the subsequent few months” because of early understandings of the omicron variant’s excessive transmissibility between folks, the middle mentioned in a Dec. 2 transient

Scientists finding out the omicron variant in South Africa, the place it was first reported to the World Well being Group, have mentioned it is spreading greater than twice as quick because the delta variant. However what is not but identified is the unfold is hastened as a result of the mutations make it simpler to unfold amongst folks, if vaccines are much less efficient in opposition to this pressure or for another cause. The research cited by the New York Occasions has not but been revealed or peer-reviewed.

Omicron is already confirmed in 16 US states

First, it was Minnesota, then California and now Hawaii, New York and factors in between. The US and different international locations had been already bracing for an elevated caseload as colder climate and vacation revelry drove extra folks indoors collectively. Now, issues over a winter surge of the dominant delta variant be part of issues about omicron’s unfold.

Omicron is analogous to the delta variant’s mutation

COVID latches onto cells utilizing a spike protein in its construction. Omicron has extra mutations than the delta variant, which is taken into account no less than twice as contagious as earlier strains. Whereas it is not clear but if omicron is kind of contagious than delta, the presence of these mutations is one reason for concern. 

That could be one cause international locations world wide have banned journey from some international locations in southern Africa and elevated journey restrictions that embrace a damaging COVID check 24 hours earlier than journey, no matter vaccination standing.

It is not clear how present vaccines will reply to omicron

Scientists are testing whether or not omicron might trigger breakthrough infections in people who find themselves absolutely vaccinated and reinfections for individuals who have antibodies from a previous COVID-19 an infection. It could take two to 3 weeks earlier than sufficient check information reveals how efficient the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are in defending in opposition to the omicron mutation. Scientists are hopeful, nonetheless, that the present vaccines will proceed to guard in opposition to the brand new variant.

“We predict it is probably that folks can have substantial safety in opposition to extreme illness attributable to omicron,” mentioned Ugur Sahin, co-founder of BioNTech, mentioned uring an interview with Reuters on TuesdayBioNTech labored with Pfizer to create one of many vaccines approved within the US.

Nonetheless, the truth that omicron has quickly mutated and unfold has rung no less than one alarm bell.

“The emergence of the extremely mutated omicron variant underlines simply how perilous and precarious our state of affairs is,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Well being Group, mentioned on Nov. 29.

Most PCR checks to determine the presence of COVID-19 within the physique are free (COVID checks for worldwide journey are the principle exception). So it is excellent news that the prevailing nasal swab check has been discovered to detect the omicron variant — a blood check or different process up to now is pointless.

“Happily for us, the PCRs that we principally use would decide up this very uncommon variant that has an actual massive constellation of mutations,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, mentioned in a Nov. 29 press briefing.

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Drugmakers are exploring if the present vaccines are efficient in opposition to the brand new variant.


Sarah Tew/CNET

COVID PCR checks can determine the omicron variant

Most PCR checks to determine the presence of COVID-19 within the physique are free (COVID checks for worldwide journey are the principle exception). So it is excellent news that the prevailing nasal swab check has been discovered to detect the omicron variant — a blood check or different process up to now is pointless.

“Happily for us, the PCRs that we principally use would decide up this very uncommon variant that has an actual massive constellation of mutations,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, mentioned Nov. 29 in a press briefing.

Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are evaluating Plan B 

Moderna: Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton advised the BBC his firm has lots of of individuals inspecting the effectiveness of its present vaccine and booster with the variant. Moderna can also be testing a COVID-19 vaccine that would shield in opposition to a number of mutated strains of the coronavirus an omicron-specific booster vaccine. Burton mentioned if Moderna must make a brand new vaccine modified for the variant, it may very well be out there early in 2022.

Pfizer: A Pfizer spokesperson mentioned the corporate is “consistently conducting surveillance efforts centered on monitoring for rising variants that doubtlessly escape safety from our vaccine.”

The spokesperson mentioned Pfizer might develop and produce a tailored vaccine in opposition to that variant in roughly 100 days.

Johnson & Johnson: Johnson & Johnson mentioned it is working with scientists in South Africa and world wide to judge the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine in opposition to the omicron variant and has begun work on a brand new vaccine designed for omicron, if wanted.

Booster photographs and vaccines are urged to assist forestall omicron’s unfold

On Thursday, Biden introduced a plan to assist shield the US in opposition to the omicron variant this winter. It consists of, amongst different issues:

  • Outreach applications to contact folks eligible to obtain booster photographs.
  • Making at-home COVID checks “free” for everybody.
  • Tighter journey restrictions that require a damaging COVID check 24 hours earlier than departure.
  • Paid day without work for federal staff to get booster photographs.
  • Securing antiviral capsules as a therapy for individuals who change into contaminated with COVID-19 (these are advisable however not but FDA accredited).
  • Sending 200 million extra doses of COVID vaccine to worldwide international locations within the subsequent 100 days (280 million have already been despatched).

Omicron is pronounced these methods

The World Well being Group assigns Greek letters to key COVID variants to assist the general public simply keep in mind and pronounce the totally different mutations of the virus. When first introduced, search curiosity within the Greek letters “omicron” and “omega” climbed as folks appeared for data on the brand new variant. Up to now we have heard the brand new omicron variant pronounced by world well being leaders as OH-me-cron, OH-mih-cron and OH-my-cron (a few of this boils right down to historic Greek). 

For extra COVID steerage, here is what to learn about new journey restrictions, the best way to retailer your vaccine card in your telephone and what to do should you lose your vaccine card.

The knowledge contained on this article is for instructional and informational functions solely and isn’t supposed as well being or medical recommendation. At all times seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier relating to any questions you will have a few medical situation or well being targets.



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