There have been no cases of the Omicron variant identified in the U.S. as of Friday, Nov. 26, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention release.
Not much is known about Omicron, which was classified as a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) Friday and first reported in South Africa. Here’s what researchers have discovered so far:
It is not yet known whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants — the positive case rate has risen in areas of South Africa affected by the variant, but it is not clear if it is due to Omicron or other factors, WHO reported.
The severity of the variant is not yet known. South African hospitalizations have been increasing, but this could be due to an increase in cases in general. The cases also originated in college students, who typically suffer less severe symptoms, so it is difficult to tell whether the variant will have different symptoms, according to WHO.
Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection associated with the variant for those who have previously had COVID-19. More information is expected to be available in the coming days and weeks.
Current testing methods will be able to identify the presence of the Omicron variant, WHO reported. Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers are effective for treating patients with severe COVID-19.
Vaccine efficacy against Omicron is not yet known, according to WHO. More information will be known in the coming days and weeks.
“At the present time, WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron. Studies currently underway or underway shortly include assessments of transmissibility, severity of infection (including symptoms), performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests and effectiveness of treatments,” according to a Nov. 28 WHO release.
WHO recommended countries should continue to implement the public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall at this time. Individuals should continue to social distance, wear masks and get vaccinated.