What to Know About Omicron | Overview
Currently, the most dominant COVID-19 strain circulating in the United States is the omicron variant. In just a few weeks, omicron spread rapidly and now accounts for most of the cases in the U.S. This variant has proved to be extremely contagious and can cause illness in those who are vaccinated and who were previously infected with other strains of the virus that causes COVID-19. Although the omicron variant appears to spread more easily, early data suggests that symptoms may be milder than prior variants.
Since the onset of the outbreak, people have reported a wide variety of symptoms associated with COVID-19. Most of these symptoms are identical to those caused by other respiratory viruses and cannot be distinguished without testing. Currently, many respiratory viruses are circulating in the community including influenza (the flu) and rhinovirus (common cold). Loss of taste and/or smell has been more commonly associated with COVID-19 in early reports but seems to be less common with the omicron variant.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body Aches
As new information emerges, the World Health Organization believes omicron may be less severe than other variants especially for people who are fully vaccinated. It is important to note that omicron may still have serious and long-lasting effects on vulnerable populations and unvaccinated people. Receiving a booster dose of vaccine has been shown to greatly increase your protection against the omicron variant. Booster doses of vaccine are recommended for all people 12 years of age and older and should be given 5 months after the second dose of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) and two months after the first Johnson & Johnson dose.
In most cases, if you test positive for COVID-19, you will not know for sure which variant of the virus you have and your lab test will not tell you. The guidelines for quarantine and isolation are the same no matter which variant you have. The CDC continues to update guidelines as new information becomes available. Currently, most people that test positive for COVID-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, should stay home and isolate themselves from others for 5 days. Day 0 is your first day of symptoms. If you are asymptomatic, the day of your positive test is day 0. Home isolation are days 1 through 5. You may leave the house on day 6 if you are fever-free for more than 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and symptom-free or symptoms significantly improved. However, you must wear a well-fitting mask through day 10 when around other people. If you are still having symptoms, you should continue to isolate. For the most up-to-date CDC guidance, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html.
Especially during the current COVID-19 surge, we should all continue to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and follow standard practices:
- Continue to wear your mask in large gatherings and indoor public places
- Social distance when possible
- Maintain good hand hygiene
If you are feeling ill, assume you are COVID-19 positive until you can get tested
Everyone eligible should receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the booster
Doing your part to stay safe and get vaccinated is the most important factor in stopping the spread. Boston Children’s Health Physicians is hopeful for a healthy new year ahead. Contact your BCHP primary care office to schedule your child’s vaccine appointment today.