The omicron variant is responsible for the latest wave of COVID-19 cases sweeping the country. Chances are you’ve had it or know someone who has. To date, it’s the most highly contagious variant of the virus and is spreading quickly.
We have created a list of the most frequently asked questions about the omicron variant to help you and your family navigate this challenging and somewhat confusing situation.
How does the omicron variant spread?
The omicron variant, just like the Delta variant and the original COVID-19 virus, spreads through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze or even talk. This is why healthcare officials stress the importance of wearing masks in the company of others who are not in your household.
How protective are vaccines and booster shots against the omicron variant?
Vaccines and booster shots are proving to be effective against severe illness associated with the omicron variant. While vaccinated and boosted individuals are experiencing what is referred to as “breakthrough infections,” the symptoms appear to be mild and, in the majority of cases, do not require hospitalizations.
If I test positive for COVID-19, what should I do?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently changed their guidance for people who test positive for COVID-19 in light of the omicron variant.
It has shortened the recommended isolation period for the public from 10 days to five days. Individuals who test positive for the virus should isolate for five days or until their symptoms have subsided. Afterward, they should plan on wearing a well-fitted mask to prevent exposing people they encounter for five more days.
What are the symptoms of the omicron variant?
For vaccinated people, symptoms of the omicron variant feel much like the common cold. You may develop a sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, and sneezing. Fever and losing sense of taste and smell seem less common with the omicron variant.
In unvaccinated individuals, the omicron variant presents symptoms similar to the original COVID-19 strain or the Delta variant. People can experience shortness of breath and develop pneumonia.
What’s the difference between a PCR test and an antigen test?
Even if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you should assume you have COVID-19 until you have been tested. You should stay home if you are feeling sick.
The most reliable tests are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. These tests are administered at healthcare testing sites and clinics, including Community First ER. They detect viral RNA and are the most reliable. If you are tested at Community First ER, you will receive your results the same day.
At-home rapid or antigen tests identify proteins specific to COVID-19 and seem to be the most effective after you have already started showing symptoms.
Community First ER currently has same-day RT-PCR test results for symptomatic patients and those exposed.
What kind of masks should I wear right now?
Throughout much of the pandemic, cloth masks were acceptable. However, because the omicron variant is so contagious, experts suggest people wear medical-grade masks (K-N95s) or three-ply surgical masks, which offer better protection.
What kinds of treatment are available for the omicron variant?
Those who experience milder forms of omicron should take vitamins, fever-reducing medication, and drink plenty of fluids. Make sure to consult with your medical provider before administering any at-home or over-the-counter treatments.
Some of the therapies used for more severe cases of COVID-19 are less effective against omicron. The newly developed monoclonal antibody-based medicine called sotrovimab is now being used to treat severe cases; however, the drug is limited in supply. Some pharmaceutical companies have also developed anti-viral pills that can be taken with a prescription.
Will there be more variants?
As viruses like COVID-19 evolve, there will inevitably be different variants. It is difficult to know how many variants there will be of COVID-19. Taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus and vaccination is key to slowing down the emergence of new variants.
Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring the IHU variant of COVID-19. It was discovered before the omicron variant; to date, it has not become a variant of concern.
Is it too late to get a vaccine?
No, it is not too late to get vaccinated. Vaccines and boosters remain readily available to the general public. Local clinics and pharmacies in the area have vaccine doses ready to administer.
Can children receive vaccines?
Yes, children 5 years of age or older are authorized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC recently announced that children ages 12 to 15 can receive a booster shot.
Community First ER is here for you
If you or your loved one catch the omicron variant, Community First ER will be here for you. No appointment is necessary, and walk-ins are accepted. With both adult and pediatric care available, you will experience little to no wait times to receive our personalized, compassionate, and concierge-level services. Our board-certified physicians and registered nurses will treat you or your loved one like family, making your health and peace of mind a top priority. We are here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
About Community First ER
Emergency health care is a critical resource. Our commitment is to provide a personal, transparent, and concierge-driven emergency health care experience to our community members. Locally owned and operated by health care providers and partners we trust, we strive to support and create meaningful relationships with those around us. We exist to put your health and wellness first. For more information, visit our website at https://communityfirster.com/ and engage with us on social media.