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Omicron is the name of a variant of the COVID-19 virus. A variant is a mutation found in the COVID-19 virus that might cause the disease to act differently and affect people differently compared to what we’re already seen.
Omicron has been named a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organization.
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Yes. CDC announced on Wednesday, Dec. 1 that the first case of COVID-19 caused by Omicron was found in the U.S.
The first case was in a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22, 2021. The individual had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative.
The first COVID-19 case caused by Omicron in Missouri was announced December 3, 2021. The Missouri Dept. of Health & Senior Services was notified by public health partners of a sample presumed positive for the Omicron variant originating from a St. Louis City resident who had recent domestic travel history. The sample was originally sequenced as part of commercial laboratory surveillance and results are currently awaiting confirmation by the CDC.
This variant is very new and we don’t know exactly how large a threat it could be to people’s health. However, we do have a tool that has proven effective against previous variants: vaccination. Omicron makes it even more important to get vaccinated (everyone age 5+) and get your booster shot (if eligible).
In addition to vaccination, Omicron should also encourage us to use the other tools we have to prevent spreading germs. This includes wearing a mask and keeping distance while around others, avoiding crowds, getting tested for COVID-19, washing your hands often, covering your coughs and sneezes and more.
Because this variant is new, experts still have a lot to learn about it. Currently, it is unknown how efficiently the Omicron variant can spread from person to person. It is unknown whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants.
Scientists have found that Omicron has a large number of mutations in portions of the genome that can potentially increase how easily this variant of COVID-19 spreads and prevent treatments from being as effective as they’ve been in the past.
Although we are still learning about Omicron, we’ve been fighting COVID-19 since last year and we know what people can do to protect themselves. If you’re not yet vaccinated – now is the time. In areas of high and substantial transmission, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors. Remember to stay 6 feet away from people and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas.
Health experts are studying how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are against the Omicron variant. It will take several weeks or longer before there is enough data to understand how well the vaccines work against the variant.
Many experts believe that current vaccines will remain effective, especially against severe disease. For the best protection, all people eligible for a booster dose should get it as soon as possible.
Omicron is still COVID-19 so symptoms will likely be the same or similar to other variants of COVID-19. See a list of known symptoms of COVID-19.
Scientists are still working to learn how the Omicron variant specially affects people who get it. If any different symptoms are discovered, this update will be provided to the public so they can better identify their illness. If you feel sick - you should get tested.
Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some variants emerge and disappear while others stick around for a long time. New variants of the COVID-19 virus are expected to occur. CDC and other public health organizations continue to monitor for new and existing variants so they can provide updated information to help keep the public safe.
You can help prevent the COVID-19 virus to stop mutating by stopping the disease from continuing to spread. Taking measures to reduce the spread of infection, including getting a COVID-19 vaccine and wearing masks in places where community transmission is substantial or high, are the best ways to slow the emergence of new variants. To see if Clay County is experiencing low, moderate, substantial or high community transmission, visit the data hub webpage at clayhealth.com/data.
COVID-19 test results – those given by pharmacies, health organizations, etc. – will only tell you if COVID-19 is present in your sample or not. They will not tell you which variant you have.
Variants are discovered through “genomic sequencing.” Sequencing is a process that scientists use to decode the genes that make up a virus and learn more about the virus. Samples collected through testing go through sequencing at a laboratory. This process takes more time and effort than basic COVID-19 testing, which is why it is usually not possible to tell each person which variant they have. Instead, samples are chosen for sequencing either because the person is more likely to have a variant (due to travel, known exposure, etc.) or random samples are chosen for sequencing to help identify which variants are spreading in a community.
Missouri: Missouri is participating in the national surveillance for COVID-19 variants of concern. Our state’s public health laboratory is sequencing a limited number of samples for presence of genetic material specific to each variant. See the latest data. Since February 2021, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services has been collaborating with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the University of Missouri to test wastewater samples for the presence of COVID-19variants in our communities. Learn more about Missouri’s Sewershed Surveillance Project.
CDC is following the details of this new variant closely. Omicron is not derived directly from Alpha, Delta or other Variants of Concern.