What You Need To Know About the Omicron COVID-19 Variant

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By now, you’ve likely seen the news that the latest coronavirus variant — Omicron — has become rampant in the United States, with infection cases spiking. As with COVID-19 when it first arrived and, later, the Delta variant, there are of course a lot of questions on how to handle the virus and how to go about avoiding it. In the midst of the holiday season, these sorts of questions can add more stress to an already stressful time. To cut down on some of that stress, we’ve answered a few questions about omicron that may be on the top of your mind.

1How do I know if I have Omicron or just a regular cold?

Anecdotal evidence thus far has shown that if you’re vaccinated and/or boosted, COVID-19 has often shown up as just a case of the sniffles. One case study conducted in Norway that looked at an Omicron-specific outbreak (most of those infected were fully vaccinated) found that early indicators of the virus were a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, dry cough, and fatigue.

2When should I get tested for Omicron?

If you are vaccinated but were in close contact with someone who has since tested positive, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying home for five to seven days and/or getting tested in that time period. To understand when you may feel symptoms, it’s important to know the virus’ incubation period. The original form of COVID-19 used to incubate for about five or six days before the onset of symptoms. A report in the Washington Post earlier this month indicated that doctors treating vaccinated patients with Omicron saw it “emerge after a short incubation period of three to four days.”

3I got Omicron. How long will it last?

The good news for those who are vaccinated and have contracted Omicron is that the illness has been reportedly very mild and many doctors are seeing recoveries usually within three days.

4Which tests are the most reliable?

PCR tests, which are processed in a lab, usually provides the most accurate reading. That said, false negatives or positives are possible, so subsequent testing may still be best. Rapid tests or antigen tests are effective at detecting if a person is infectious and able to spread the virus to others, but usually only if the person has symptoms. If you have symptoms and tested negative on a rapid test, the advice is to get tested again.

5I’m not vaccinated or boosted. Should I get vaccinated and boosted?

If you’re not vaccinated yet or haven’t gotten your booster, you should know there are many studies that indicate that the vaccines are effective in helping your body fight Omicron. Moderna released a study on Monday noting its “half-dose booster shot increased antibody levels against the Omicron coronavirus variant — and a larger-sized dose of the booster increases antibody levels even more,” as per CNN. Pfizer reported earlier this month that two or three doses of its vaccine can also “neutralize” Omicron. For more information on the efficacy of the vaccines, you can read the benefits here.

Tags: health, Navigating the Pandemic

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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