The rapid spread of new variants offers clues to how SARS-CoV-2 is adapting and how the pandemic will play out over the next several months.
The variant has changed how we get from “pandemic” to “endemic,” but that doesn’t mean we’re back to square one.
... two new studies offer a small consolation for vaccinated individuals who suffer breakthrough infections. The infection leaves you with protections that may be more effective than those offered by a second booster.
No matter the severity of the variant, the appetite for shutdowns or other large-scale social interventions simply isn’t there.
Some scientists say the nose-only approach is missing early infections, but the FDA warns against throat swabbing.
As omicron continues to spread worldwide, public health experts contend it's critical that currently available COVID-19 tests are able to detect the variant and work as well as they did in detecting other strains such as delta. However, mutations in the viral targets of some tests could result in false negative results, according to FDA.
If you find out you’ve been exposed to someone who’s tested positive for Covid-19, a rush of questions might come to mind: Do I have to quarantine? What if I can’t find a good mask or a test? Even if I test negative, can I be certain that I’m not contagious?
Here’s how to think about all the emerging data.
A new omicron subvariant of the virus that causes COVID-19, BA.2, is quickly becoming the predominant source of infections amid rising cases around the world. Immunologists Prakash Nagarkatti and Mitzi Nagarkatti of the University of South Carolina explain what makes it different from previous variants, whether there will be another surge in the U.S. and how best to protect yourself.
COVID researchers are working at breakneck speed to learn about the variant’s transmissibility, severity and ability to evade vaccines.
Rapid tests help us navigate risk during the current wave, but studies raise questions about their ability to detect the Omicron variant.
More alarming than the news headlines are the policies by several Western or wealthy nations to ban travelers from Africa as a way to stem the spread of this variant. This action is an unscientific kneejerk reaction that will have severe economic consequences for African countries struggling to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
Omicron’s ‘close cousin’ has mutations that could alter how it behaves and has begun to surpass Covid’s most common variety in parts of Europe and Asia.
The new variant poses a far graver threat at the collective level than the individual one—the kind of test that the U.S. has repeatedly failed.
So, according to the math, Omicron cases rising no longer automatically means impending doom and gloom, nor does it require apocalyptic language like we’re hearing from the media and political leaders implying mass waves of death with rapidly increasing case rates.
One silver lining to the latest surge: South African researchers have found that those infected with omicron in the country are, on average, less likely to end up in the hospital. And, as NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff has reported, they also appear to recover more quickly from illness, compared to the other variants.
Researchers are racing to determine how widespread the Omicron variant might be across the U.S., scouring Covid-19 test samples and in some cases even examining wastewater.
As the world waits for studies that give a clear picture of the Omicron variant, early clinical data emerging from South Africa hint at a virus that may cause less severe cases of Covid-19.
Hospitals, drug companies and Biden administration officials are racing to address one of the Omicron variant’s biggest threats: Two of the three monoclonal antibody treatments that doctors have depended on to keep Covid-19 patients from becoming seriously ill do not appear to thwart the latest version of the coronavirus.
The new variant seems to be our quickest one yet. That makes it harder to catch with the tests we have.
A mild Covid-19 case from omicron might feel like a cold. You should still take it seriously.
How did high-income countries respond to the news? Unfortunately, with knee-jerk travel bans rather than anything that might be mistaken for a coherent public health response.
All travel bans accomplish in countries with selective red-listed countries is delay the inevitable. More could possibly be accomplished by rigorous exit and entry screening programmes to identify potential cases and mandating vaccination.
Much has been learnt about how to treat covid-19 and how to live with it
Many public health experts were opposed to a boosters-for-all approach. The new variant is changing some minds.
There is no information yet on whether the variant leads to a change in Covid symptoms or severity – this is something South African scientists will be closely monitoring. Since there is a lag between infections and more serious illness, it will take several weeks before any clear data is available. At this stage, scientists say there is no strong reason to suspect that the latest variant will be either worse or milder.
We don’t know how severe Omicron is, but we do know it’s spreading very fast.
For vaccinated and otherwise healthy people, it may seem tempting to live a normal life and get Omicron over with. Here are some reasons why you shouldn't.
Omicron may be less risky for each of us — but more risky for all of us.
Now the alphabet has created its own political headache. When it came time to name the potentially dangerous new variant that has emerged in southern Africa, the next letter in alphabetical order was Nu, which officials thought would be too easily confused with “new.”
The letter after that was even more complicated: Xi, a name that in its transliteration, though not its pronunciation, happens to belong to the leader of China, Xi Jinping. So they skipped both and named the new variant Omicron.
Travel bans on countries detecting new variants, and the subsequent economic costs, may also act as a disincentive for countries to reveal variants of concern in future.
The WHO does not generally recommend flight bans or other forms of travel embargoes. Instead, it argues interventions of proven value should be prioritised: vaccination, hand hygiene, physical distancing, well-fitted masks, and good ventilation.
Case counts ‘don’t reflect what they used to’, experts argue, as data suggests Omicron is less severe but more contagious.
The mutations in omicron hint at what’s to come in the Covid-19 pandemic.
The nature of this variant, combined with widespread vaccine use, may make it seem less severe in some ways than earlier ones. It doesn’t always feel like that here.
New coronavirus variants crop up all the time. Why are health officials so concerned about this one?
Guesses about the new variant abound, but only time will tell if it can compete with delta.
New subvariants proliferate despite significant protection from vaccines and prior infection; policy makers consider open-ended vaccination drives.
What to watch as scientists race to understand the omicron Covid-19 variant.
The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus...
The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.