Now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified omicron as a variant of concern, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is strongly encouraging everyone to follow its prevention strategies to hamper the possible spread of the virus in the country.
Variant Of Concern
After carefully assessing the specific mutations and behavior of the new strain, experts have officially classified it as a variant of concern. What this means is that there’s evidence that the omicron variant has a higher transmissibility rate and has the capacity to cause a more severe form of the infection. There is also a significant reduction in the protection antibodies from vaccination or previous infection are able to provide. Furthermore, reduced effectiveness of vaccines or treatments is also observed, according to CDC.
Experts found preliminary evidence suggesting an increased risk of reinfection with the omicron variant compared to the other strains, including delta. The strain was first reported in South Africa on Nov. 24, 2021, but there is now sufficient data showing a remarkable increase in transmissions in the region. WHO said that after analyzing genetic sequencing data, experts found that the variant is causing surges at a faster rate than the previous strains, indicating that omicron may have a growth advantage over the other variants.
Variants Being Monitored
The variants present in the United States are regularly monitored by CDC on the basis of their potential or clear impact on the countermeasures in place and the number of their transmissions. Strains that are circulating at very low levels are not considered a significant risk to public health. As such, they are not classified as a variant of concern. Additionally, a variant of concern may be downgraded when there’s been a significant reduction in transmissions and cases over a period of time.
Thus far, omicron is not a variant of concern in the country. Delta remains to be the variant of concern, while the latest Variants Being Monitored report lists alpha, beta, gamma and epsilon as strains that are still being observed by medical professionals and health experts. However, some public health experts now believe that omicron might have already arrived in the U.S. after Canada reported two cases of the new variant on Sunday. Physician-scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC that he would not be surprised if omicron is already circulating in the country.
What The CDC Is Saying
In response to the emerging threat, the CDC issued a statement encouraging everyone to follow its four prevention strategies. First, one should always wear a mask when in a public indoor setting or an area with high community transmission. Next, wash hands frequently. Third, continue practicing social distancing. Finally, the public health agency has once again urged everyone, five years and older, to get protected by getting fully vaccinated. Those who are already done with their main doses are strongly encouraged to get the booster shots once they are eligible.