Omicron is a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 which was first reported on November 24, 2021 by the World Health Organization in South Africa.
About the variant
The new variant is a mysterious one. Scientists and doctors all over the world are seeing how dangerous it is and considering if this could change the course of the pandemic. According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “The exact impact is still difficult to know…. Certain features of Omicron, including its global spread and large number of mutations, suggest it could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic.”
As the variant’s spread keeps growing, not that much is known yet about its effects. “It’s too early to tell… I just only wanted to caution against any conclusions about the severity of omicron yet,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, an American epidemiologist. She also said that people who are older, sick and unvaccinated continue to be at higher risk of getting it.
What we know so far
The variant’s transmissibility is still unknown. It is unknown if it spreads more easily from person to person than other variants. According to WHO, “It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.” The WHO is collaborating with technical partners to determine how effective the immunizations are against the variant.
Two weeks after the announcement of the variant, the first case was detected in Chicago resident. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The case was identified in a Chicagoan who made contact with someone who had traveled to the city and tested positive for Omicron in another state, according to a joint statement from the Illinois and Chicago Departments of Public Health.” It was also first confirmed in a San Francisco resident who just returned from South Africa on December 1, 2021.
As of now President Biden is announcing new actions to protect Americans against the Omicron and Delta variants. According to NPR, 19 states have now reported the Omicron variant. States that have detected the variant range from Hawaii to Texas to Massachusetts.