The omicron COVID-19 variant: What you should know

Archive, December, Month

The latest COVID-19 variant was first reported in the United States on Dec. 1.

On the heels of the delta variant, which remains responsible for virtually all of the current COVID-19 hospitalizations, comes the omicron variant.

First reported by the World Health Organization on Nov. 24 (after studying samples collected on Nov. 11 in Botswana and Nov. 14 in South Africa), the latest coronavirus mutation was first reported in the United States on Dec. 1, with multiple cases quickly to follow.

Officially named SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529, the mutation is referred to as omicron in continuing the practice of naming variants after characters in the Greek alphabet.

While this is not the first mutation since the emergence of the delta variant in the summer of 2021, the main concern regarding omicron is the appearance that it’s spread much more easily — twice more contagious than delta.

Though omicron is concerning, the delta variant still accounts for 99 percent of COVID-19 cases.


The symptoms of the omicron variant are similar to those typically associated with a COVID-19 infection, which include flu-like symptoms, dry cough, fever and body aches.

The most notable addition to the list of symptoms, related to omicron, is the sporadic presence of a rash, appearing as purple-ish bumps around the hands and feet, mostly reported in children.


Not long after the WHO first announced the existence of omicron to the world, reports began that those who had been infected were experiencing symptoms, but on a milder, less severe scale.

While more research is needed, the chief of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said regarding those Americans infected with omicron that their “disease is mild.”

Studies are focusing on if the milder disease is a result of infected patients being vaccinated, or if the virus itself leads to less severe illness.


Medical professionals continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated as the safest, most effective way to protect themselves against COVID-19, including becoming severely ill from an infection and from long haul symptoms.

Based on omicron’s characteristic of being more contagious, concerns were raised as to the vaccines’ effectiveness against the variant.

Overseas lab studies found that vaccine antibodies were less effective against the variant. However, with the availability of third doses, Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, a manufacturer of one of the vaccines, relayed the results of a lab study demonstrating that a third dose of the vaccine significantly increases the body’s immune response (as much as 25 times more effective) against omicron.



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