Newest COVID variant: Omicron

By: Sarah VonBerge

The information and understanding of the newest COVID-19 variant, called Omicron, is very limited, as the first case of it was only found about a month and a half ago in Botswana, and the first case in the United States was on December 1, 2021. This variant is more contagious than even the Delta variant, although the Omicron symptoms are more mild. Omicron is currently the most dominant strain, as 73% of new cases are from it.

Omicron hasn’t shown a few of the normal COVID symptoms, such as a loss of taste and smell, but it still has had some of the regular symptoms, such as muscle aches, itchy throat, and fatigue. A new symptom that hasn’t been seen in any of the other strains has been night sweats. People have said that the night sweats are so bad that they have had to get up and change their clothes since they are so drenched in sweat.

This new variant has roughly 50 new mutations as compared to the original COVID-19 virus, 30 of which are in the spike protein. The spike protein is the mRNA that is used in the vaccine to help fight the virus and cause your immune system to fight it. Luckily, however, there have been no mutations found in the T cells, which is your immune system‘s second layer of protection.

So far, Omicron has affected young people the most; of the new cases reported from December 23rd-29th, 16% were minors, 54% were ages 18-39, 25% were ages 40-64, and 5% were 65 and older. It only takes 2 days for infection to occur and for the infected person to be contagious and Omicron cases are doubling every 2-4 days. Currently, unvaccinated people have a 10 times higher risk of testing positive and a 20 times higher risk of dying as compared to vaccinated people.

The best ways to fight Omicron and all other strains of COVID right now are to get vaccinated, get a booster shot, wear your mask and get tested as soon as you think you might have contracted COVID from someone. “This is not March of 2020. We are not defenseless,” Governor Kathy Hochul of New York said.

Booster shots have been shown to raise protection to the virus by 80%. The CDC recommends anyone 5 years and older gets vaccinated and everyone older than 18 should get a booster after at least 2 months of getting their original vaccination. Even though vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, you should continue to wear a mask. Anyone can contract and spread the virus. Vaccinations lessen symptoms, but they do completely cure you of Omicron or the other strains of COVID.

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