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What is The New Omicron COVID Variant?

A New COVID-19 Variant – The Omicron Variant

The news has been saturated with information about a new COVID variant B.1.1.529with very little actual information about this new virus. It was first detected in South Africa in late November, but it is possible that Omicron did not originate there. The virus has been found in samples in Europe that precede the discovery in South Africa. It is now found in at least 26 countries including several states in the US. The confirmed case count is low but rising quickly. With this early statistical information and the fact that the new strain is highly mutated compared to the Delta variant, experts believe that the virus is more transmissible. There is some good news at least anecdotal that would indicate that the new virus could be less deadly as the symptoms appear to be milder than symptoms with the Delta Variant.

The Omicron Stage of The Pandemic

All this information is preliminary as we are very early into the Omicron stage of the pandemic. Not enough information has been gathered and not enough data been cross referenced to the patient population specifics like vaccine status, and prior infection status. This does not allow any certainty in the prediction of severity. The vaccine companies are scrambling to understand how the variant reacts to the current vaccines and they need time to make valid conclusions. They are confident that there is benefit to the existing vaccines; but are already looking into plan B an Omicron booster and they expect to have a plan B vaccine production ready in about 100 days. Let’s hope we don’t need plan B, but it appears that it will be available soon.

What Can We DoInTheMeantime?

Meanwhile what can we do as a population to help ourselves.We can continue to socially distance, we can continue to wear face masks in public, we can continue to wash our hands frequently. We can continue to test when we have suspicious symptoms or suspect exposure. We can continue to adjust our lives to the pandemic. We are all tired of this and wish that it had already passed, but once again we will need to dig deep and continue to show that we can survive

Is There a Silver Lining to The Omicron Variant?

If there is a silver lining to the appearance of Omicron is that vaccination rates have gone up. This is good news because if it turns out that the current vaccines are highly effective against Omicron we are in better shape. Even if they are not very effective, they will reduce the healthcare system load from prior variants. Two years into this pandemic every country’s health care system is to the breaking point, the care givers are physically and mentally tired, they have lost many colleagues to the virus and have lost many to retirement due to exhaustion. The number of hospital beds maybe the same but if you cannot adequately staff the facility, those facilities become less effective. This has caused ripple effects for patients that need help due to non-COVID related illness. Or even those that are waiting for “elective” surgeries which is a misnomer; they can survive without the surgery but are possibly living with more pain or have a diminished quality of life.

One last comment and it is more a hope than a prediction or a statement. If (and that is a big IF still) the variant is less deadly it maybe that the virus is starting to become just another common cold virus or flu. Don’t get me wrong even the most mundane form of the flu is still deadly to some people and it is still tragic; but as a society we could return to a more normal life,and that is a good thing.

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