On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized a new variant of the coronavirus — strain B.1.1.529, also known as the Omicron variant. Governments around the world are scrambling to collect data and make preparations for lockdowns; and while the variant is in its early stages, there are some insights to be had about Omicron thus far. Here are some important facts you should know about the Omicron variant.
Where is Omicron?
The Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa, although its exact origins are unknown. This variant is a genetic descendant of the original virus strain, not the alpha or delta variants. It is likely this strain has been evolving over the past year and emerged within the last few months. Soon after doctors in South Africa confirmed Omicron’s existence, a group of 13 airline passengers flying into Amsterdam from South Africa tested positive for the variant. From there, the virus continued to spread, largely undetected.
So far, here are the countries that have confirmed Omicron cases:
- South Africa
- Hong Kong
- Czech Republic
With how quickly Omicron has already proven to spread, chances are the variant is already present in most countries even if it hasn’t yet been detected in them.
What are the Symptoms of Omicron?
Data is still being collected regarding Omicron’s symptoms, but there are some early throughlines that are worth mentioning.
Although Omicron does share some symptoms with other variants, South African doctors are already reporting that its symptoms are different from the Delta variant symptoms. The main symptoms of Omicron are:
- Body aches
- Occasional sore throat
The telltale symptoms of Delta, on the other hand, are elevated pulse rate, low oxygen levels, and loss of taste/smell. Data is still being collected on Omicron’s severity, but so far it seems that symptoms tend to be mild.
Is Omicron More Contagious?
It is not yet known whether Omicron is more transmissible than the original coronavirus strain or even the Delta variant, but early indications point to this being a possibility. Experts estimate it will be another two weeks or more of data collection to determine how contagious Omicron is. It has a large number of mutations related to the spike protein, which is the means by which the virus invades cells.
How to Protect Yourself From the Omicron Variant
Omicron could be a special case, according to preliminary data — WHO states that, “preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant,” as compared to other variants.
This means that even if you’ve contracted COVID-19 in the past, you can still become infected by the Omicron variant. To combat this as effectively as possible, medical experts around the globe have stressed the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination and booster, if you are eligible. Data will continue to be collected and guidance will be formulated accordingly, but in the meantime you should take normal precautions:
- Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces
- Evaluate your workplace’s outdoor air ventilation and filtration
- Use carbon dioxide sensors as a risk-indicator for COVID
- Wear a facemask while occupying indoor public spaces
- Social distance whenever possible
- Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces
- Wash your hands frequently
- Get vacinnated, if not already
Indoor Science is Here to Help Maintain COVID-19 Safety 24/7
Indoor Science has years of experience in dealing with airborne infectious diseases and biological contaminants, and we will go beyond the scope of work that regular HVAC staff perform on a daily basis. Indoor Science’s team can conduct indoor air quality testing and evaluate your building’s ventilation, filtration, and other risk-reduction strategies. Our parent organization, Aftermath Services, can perform facility sanitization using its proprietary disinfectants coupled with verifiable surface testing.
COVID-19 is a serious disease and we understand that the health and safety of you, your family, and employees are on the line. Contact us at 312-920-9393 today to discuss our COVID-19 consulting services or to schedule an appointment.