The emergence of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron occurred at the time when most countries were witnessing a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases. This new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported to the WHO (World Health Organization) on November 24, 2021.
Since then, there have been several rounds of new theories emerging to explain the transmissibility of this variant. Researchers are trying to predict the behavior of this variant with an aim to contain its spread and prevent the risk of mortality and morbidity, especially in the vulnerable groups of patients.
However, there is too much of misinformation that is circulating on various platforms as a result of which doctors as well as common people are left feeling confused. Hence, there is a need to create awareness about the various aspects of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 to ensure people are able to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and do not experience undue stress and anxiety due to misinformation or the lack of information.
Here is a brief discussion about what we know about the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 so far.
The new B.1.1.529 variant was first detected in the specimens collected in Botswana on November 11, 2021, and in South Africa on November 14, 2021.
The WHO named the B.1.1.529 variant as Omicron on November 26, 2021, and classified it as a VOC (Variant of Concern). The healthcare authorities in the US also designated it as a Variant of Concern on November 30, 2021. The first confirmed case of Omicron in the US was identified on December 1, 2021.
The CDC (Centers For Disease Control And Prevention) has been collaborating with the public health and industry partners across the world to learn as much as possible about the behavior of the Omicron variant.
The CDC has been using advanced genomic surveillance methods throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to track the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 and inform public healthcare authorities about the latest information to help them recommend appropriate strategies to contain the spread of this infection.
The CDC, at present, is making effort to accumulate and analyze the available data to make predictions about the future course of this pandemic.
Our Respiratory Conferences are aimed at addressing your concerns about this variant and sharing information to help you recommend the most effective infection prevention strategies to your patients.
The Omicron variant is likely to spread more easily as compared to the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. How easily the Omicron variant spreads compared to the Delta variant is still not clearly understood. The CDC has informed that any person infected with the Omicron variant can spread the infection to other people, even if he or she is vaccinated or doesn’t have any evident symptoms.
Also, researchers have expressed that, in spite of the increased attention that the Omicron variant has received, it is still the Delta variant that continues to be the major variant circulating in most countries of the world including the United States.
More data is needed to predict whether a patient who contracts Omicron infection would develop a more severe illness or have a higher risk of mortality. However, recent data suggests that this variant might be less fatal than the delta variant.
The vaccines that are currently approved for the prevention of COVID-19 are expected to offer protection against severe symptoms, need for hospitalization, life-threatening complications, and death due to the infection by the Omicron variant.
But, breakthrough infections in patients who have completed vaccination may occur in some cases. As with the other variants, including Delta, vaccination has remained an effective way of preventing severe symptoms.
The recent emergence of the Omicron variant stresses on the importance of taking vaccine shots and boosters further. You can attend our webinars for Respiratory Therapy medicine to learn more about the effectiveness of vaccines.
Researchers are working towards determining how well the existing approved treatments for managing COVID-19 would work against Omicron. The analysis of the changes in the genetic make-up of the Omicron variant indicates that some treatments are likely to be more effective for relieving the symptoms and preventing the risk of death.
Vaccines remain the most effective public health measure for protecting people against COVID-19. It would slow down the transmission of the virus and reduce the risk of any new variants emerging in the future.
COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be highly effective for preventing a severe form of illness. Scientists are investigating Omicron and analyzing how well the fully vaccinated people are protected against the infection.
CDC has recommended that everyone above 5 years of age should get fully vaccinated to protect themselves against the Omicron variant. CDC has also recommended that people above 18 years of age should get a booster shot at least 2 months after the initial Janssen /J&J vaccine or 6 months after the completion of their primary series of COVID-19 vaccination by Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.
Wearing masks is found to offer significant protection against all variants of SARS-CoV-2. CDC recommends continuing to wear a mask in public and in the areas of high or substantial community transmission.
Scientists are working to gather virus samples and data that could be studied to get answers to important questions related to the Omicron variant.
In the US, the CDC is using genomic surveillance to track the variants of SARS-CoV-2 in order to quickly identify as well as act upon the findings to protect the health of all people across the world.
CDC has established multiple ways to share and connect genomic sequence data that is produced by the CDC itself as well as the commercial diagnostic laboratories and public health laboratories. You can attend Respiratory Therapy Continuing Education CEUs to know the latest information about the Omicron variant released by the healthcare authorities. Attending our webinars will help you manage COVID-19 cases more efficiently and allow you to get Respiratory Care CEU Credits.