(COVID-19 WATCH) Omicron Variant: What We Know So Far

You might have heard the news about South Africa travel bans in response to the newest COVID-19 variant, the Omicron variant.

Countries including Japan, India, Turkey, and Switzerland, to name a few, have tightened their travel curbs because of this variant.

What is the Omicron Variant?

The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa and declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this variant can spread faster than other variants increasing reinfections. The Omicron variant is identified by having a spiked protein different from the original COVID-19 strain. This variant is the fifth variant of concern declared by the WHO.

As of now, there are no unusual symptoms that have been associated with this variant. The Omicron variant has the same symptoms as the original strain, with some infected individuals classified as asymptomatic.

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Where has it been identified?

The variant has been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Netherlands, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Czech Republic, Belgium, Hong Kong, Israel, and Australia. Just recently, the variant has made its way to Canada.

What are the mutations?

Since the Omicron variant is still new, there is still so much to learn about this variant. Theories tell that this variant has almost ten (10) mutations and could be more transmissible than the Delta variant, the current dominant COVID-19 variant in the world.

Another mutation may cause reduced sensitivity to antibody activity caused by vaccines or past infections.

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What is a Variant of Concern? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the term Variant of Concern means that this variant has a high-level transmissibility rate and an increase in fatalities. Variants classified like this can decrease the effectiveness of vaccines, therapy, and other health measures.

COVID-19 Variants of Concern:
– Alpha variant
– Beta variant
– Gamma variant
– Delta variant
– Omicron variant

What should you do?

1. Get Vaccinated
Vaccines are still the best way to protect yourself from the virus. Getting vaccinated reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 infections and can drastically lower the risk of getting hospitalized.

2. Get Tested
Like any other variant, if you are experiencing any symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, immediately isolate yourself and get yourself tested. Reduce the spread of infections by following the proper health and safety guidelines.

3. Stay Safe
Just because the number of active cases in your area is decreasing does not mean that the pandemic is over. Newer variants like the Omicron can still wreak havoc when you’re not careful. Follow social distancing rules, wear masks whenever you go outside and wash your hands every time you touch highly transmissible areas like countertops, money, or your phone.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing. The decrease in active cases and daily infections does not mean that this health crisis is over. As we continue to face COVID-19 and its various mutations, active detection and isolation of positive cases in our country are more imperative than ever.

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