Omicron: Everything You Need to Know

Omicron: Everything You Need to Know

As we continue to navigate year 3 of the pandemic, Omicron cases persist and are highly transmissible. With all the literature that’s been published, it may be confusing to keep track of all the information regarding Omicron cases, symptoms, and treatments. At MD Now, we’re here to provide the details you need about this phase of the pandemic.

What Are the Facts About Omicron?

This variant is highly mutated, which is why many people are worried catching it. It has more mutations than any variant so far. The spike proteins that attack your cells show these mutations. The current vaccines, and others in development, focus on helping the body develop an immune response to these spike proteins. 

There’s some good news. It appears this variant causes a milder illness than the previous variants. Early data suggests hospitalization rates are about half of those created by delta. This is because Omicron is less likely to cause severe problems, such as pneumonia. Those who are fully vaccinated and boosted are even less likely to end up hospitalized. Unfortunately, even with Omicron, there’s still a chance of severe illness and death in unvaccinated patients. Not to mention the reinfection factor, meaning you can still become ill from Omicron even if you’ve had COVID-19 before.

Knowing What to Watch For: What Are the Omicron Symptoms?

The symptoms of this variant are much like those caused by Delta and other past variants. 

Omicron symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle and body aches, especially lower back pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose or other congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Possible new loss of smell or taste

Data suggests fewer people lose their ability to smell or taste with the Omicron variant. These symptoms are associated with COVID-19 infections, but as the virus evolves over time, we may see certain symptoms come or go. For example, some people are reporting experiencing less respiratory and more gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Avoiding Omicron Lockdown: How Can We Reduce the Chances of Getting Sick?

Omicron Incubation Period and Spread

Unfortunately, Omicron is highly contagious. Now the dominant strain in the United States, it appears to spread two to four times faster than past variants. The CDC says that breakthrough infections are likely even in the vaccinated. It’s possible to spread Omicron regardless of whether or not you have symptoms.

New data from the CDC suggests the Omicron incubation period is around three days. An incubation period is the length of time between the point of infection and when the person begins showing symptoms. This Omicron incubation period is important. It relates to how much time people can unknowingly spread the virus to others.

Vaccines and Omicron

You’re fully vaccinated. Are you protected from the Omicron variant?

As of now, it’s believed the current vaccines don’t offer quite as much protection as they did for past variants. Nonetheless, it seems they may still offer a degree of protection against severe illness and death. Getting a COVID-19 booster shot will boost your antibodies. This will increase your odds of combatting the virus and avoiding hospitalization. All adults are currently eligible for a COVID-19 booster.

If you haven’t already, there’s other reasons to consider getting vaccinated and boosted. First of all, the other variants, particularly Delta, still exist. Although Omicron is dominant, you could encounter another strain. Full vaccination and boosting are your best defense against avoiding severe illness with either strain. 

Another reason is that all COVID-19 infections contribute to the development of new variants. Fewer infections result in a reduced chance of a new variant emerging. More people getting vaccinations helps us all. 

You need a booster if it’s been more than two months since the J&J/Janssen single-dose vaccine. For Moderna and Pfizer, a booster is needed at least 5 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series. Don’t forget to get your annual flu shot as well. Co-infections are real, and it is possible to become ill with both the flu and the Omicron variant.

Omicron and Masks

Masks have been a hot topic throughout the pandemic. They’re an important tool to reduce Omicron cases, but the conversations over which masks are best can be confusing. Can masks help us avoid an Omicron lockdown? Do we need to wear a KN95 or N95 mask all the time? 

When to Mask

Even if you are fully vaccinated, a good rule of thumb is to wear a mask whenever you’re indoors with people from other households and remain socially distant. When outside, you should mask in large groups. 

The Type of Mask

For extra protection, wear a KN95 or N95 mask, especially in crowded spaces. These masks use polypropylene fibers to create an effective barrier. This prevents viral particles from entering the mouth and nose. Make the effort to ensure your mask has a snug fit to avoid leaks.

What about cloth masks? At this point, many of us have stylish cloth masks that we love. Are they now useless? This is a difficult question to answer considering there’s no standard manufacturing process for cloth masks. Nonetheless, it appears cloth and surgical masks do offer some protection, but it might not be enough to prevent illness as effectively as we initially believed. 

Research suggests surgical masks may offer around 85-90% protection and N95 respirators up to 95% protection. Cloth masks allow for 75% of the particles to enter or exit the mask, which allows for a lot of spread. In other words, cloth masks are better than nothing, but you should get your hands on some N95 or KN95 masks as soon as you can. If that’s not possible, try layering your favorite cloth mask over a surgical mask to increase protection. 

The Importance of Omicron Tests: COVID-19 Testing Near Me

Now that you know Omicron symptoms are less likely to lead to hospitalization, you might wonder if you need to test at all. COVID-19 testing is still very important! The Omicron incubation period allows for viral spread, and not testing could lengthen the time in which you’re a risk to others. This is true even if you’re vaccinated. It’s especially true if you’re experiencing Omicron symptoms.

Reasons to test for COVID-19 during the Omicron surge include:

  • Ensuring quicker access to treatment if your condition worsens.
  • Knowing for sure that you must isolate to prevent the continued spread of the virus.
  • Being able to tell anyone you’ve been in contact with, so they can also get tested and quarantine if needed.

The situation in which you were exposed plays a role in how you should respond as well. For instance, let’s say you believe the exposure occurred at a crowded indoor music show. In this situation, you should test and quarantine while monitoring your symptoms. This is because exposure in such a setting is likely, especially if some were unmasked.

If, however, you were outside, and everyone was masked and distancing, you’re less likely to get infected. In this situation, you might choose to watch for symptoms and only test if you feel it’s needed. 

MD Now: Your Source for Fact-based COVID-19 Information, Testing, and Vaccines

If you’re wondering: where is there COVID-19 testing near me? Look no further than your neighborhood MD Now. With more than 60 state-of-the-art clinics across Florida, it’s easy to find an MD Now near you. Whether you need up-to-date Omicron information, PCR testing, or vaccinations, we’ve got you covered.  Our physician-led team of healthcare professionals is here to help you through the pandemic and with other health-related needs. 

No appointment necessary, just walk in! 

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