Covid Omicron

The new and highly infectious Omicron covid variant

Morgan McCormack, News Editor

Hospitals are filling to capacity once more as the Omicron variant begins to run rampant, infecting at a higher rate than any of the previous variants of interest (VOI) and variants of concern (VOC).

Infectious diseases expert with Nebraska Medicine, James Lawler, Md, MPH, provides that Omicron seems  to be more thansmissible than any of the previous variants.

Thus far, there have been six cases found in Nebraska, and with the knowledge we have about this virus’ virality, this number will increase without proper precaution.

The World Health Organization was first notified by this variant on Nov. 24 when it first began its breakout in South Africa. Not long after, the United States received its first case on Dec. 1, with 22 states identifying at least one case of the first Omicron variant.

The Cendet for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 2.9% of US COVID-19 cases are of the Omicron variant. This number is expected to rise rapidly, as is the pattern seen in other countries. A slow start with rapid spikes. For example, officials in Britain estimated that the Omicron variant becomes the dominant one in a matter of days.

With this new variant, there is increased pressure from the WHO to increase the use of masks, and to make use of other protective measures such as receiving your vaccine and booster.

Despite this press for people to get vaccinated, a new study from South Africa states that the Pfizer vaccine is only roughly 33% effective against Omicron. However, despite this, it has been shown that those who have been vaccinated are less likely to end up in the hospital due to infection.

According to the WHO, whether this strain is more or less severe is unclear, and there is no information that suggests that the symptoms are any different that the other. However, it has been found that many initially reported infections were among the younger population, university students who tend to have more mild disease.

Studies are being conducted by the WHOin collaboration when many researchers around the world are being conducted to better understand the effectiveness of current treatments, tests and vaccines, the severity of the disease and its transmissibility. 

As of now, little is known about this virus other than that it is a variant that has left many country’s hospitals at maximum capacity during a time when COVID spikes are already at the highest they have been since Dec. 2020.

The WHO, CDC, and other health officials around the world are continuing their education for masks, vaccines, and increased precautions as numbers rise and variants begin to form.