What is the Omicron Variant and How Can I Protect Myself?

The newest Covid-19 variant, Omicron, is taking over all news headlines. Since it has a different genetic makeup than the previous strains, the severity, transmissibility, and vaccine protection are still unknown. Scientists and public health officials are working hard to monitor the spread and gather information to answer important questions we all have about the variant.

What We Know So Far

Is it more transmissible?
Omicron was first detected in South Africa where it spread quickly in areas with low vaccination rates. So far, in South Africa, Omicron spread very quickly but in areas with low vaccination rates. Very early data shows that in areas with high vaccine levels it spreads slower. It will likely spread more easily than the original virus but the comparison to Delta remains unknown.

Is it more virulent than other variants? Is it more likely to cause severe illness or death?
More data is needed to know if Omicron infections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated cause more severe illness or death.

Are our vaccines effective? 
Current vaccines are expected to help protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. However, even if you are fully vaccinated, you may still catch the Omicron variant. Boosters are recommended for everyone. In addition to being the best protection against the virus, vaccines slow transmission and help reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.

The CDC encourages everyone to continue to wear masks. Masks can be found on the website here.

Other protective equipment can be found in PPE essentials collection.

Germs are frequently transmitted by hands. Help prevent the spread by frequently washing your hands and using hand sanitizer.

 

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