The omicron variant of COVID-19 is taking the world by storm, even faster than the recent delta variant. In a mere three weeks, omicron is responsible for 80% of new symptomatic cases in America. The delta variant only reached this point by the three-month mark, according to Chron.com.
Dr. S. Wesley Long, director of Houston Methodist Hospital’s testing lab says, “everything is riskier now because omicron is so much more contagious.”
While the mutation’s ease of transmission and immunity evasion are alarming, scientists remain unsure of the virus’ severity. The situation’s volatility will only increase as we approach the winter holidays.
Current vaccines offer a reduced level of protection compared to prior COVID variants, however, they remain greatly beneficial. While lab tests show two doses alone may be insufficient, a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot appears to be effective.
Vaccines do not guarantee immunity. However, they will greatly improve your chances of avoiding hospitalization or death.
South African scientists have reported high rates of reinfection not observed in previous mutations.
The Imperial College of London in Britain has reported the risk of reinfection from omicron is five times higher than that of the delta variant.
Prior infections offer little protection against reinfection. However, they will likely reduce symptom severity. Health experts still recommend vaccination in this case.
Researchers in Hong Kong have reported omicron may multiply in the airway more quickly than delta, although not deep in the lungs.
However, scientists are unable to measure the impact human behavior will have on omicron’s transmissibility. Winter gatherings and travel have increased in step with the new variant.
It is too early to accurately predict how dangerous omicron may be.
South African doctors are unsure whether the reduced symptoms could be related to overcoming the recent delta infection, or due to the fairly young population.
British studies have found no evidence of omicron having lesser symptoms, even among younger adults, which are still experiencing high rates of infection.
Who is at Risk?
Medical experts still believe the new variant will be particularly dangerous for older individuals, or those with underlying health conditions. Specialists advise you to continue wearing masks indoors and practice social distancing.