What are omicron variant symptoms? Everything to know about the latest COVID strain.

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While millions of Americans were enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend with loved ones, health officials were sounding the alarm over a “heavily mutated” version of the coronavirus emerging in South Africa.

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The World Health Organization announced Friday that it has designated the new strain “anxiety type” and named it Omicron.

Not much is known about the new variant, but experts say it could take hold, leading to an increase in infections.

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Omicron’s emergence is another reminder that although many of us may think we are done with COVID-19, it has not happened to us.” “

Here’s everything there is to know about O’Micron and why Americans should take notice.

What is Omicron?

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The World Health Organization on Friday named the version b.1.1.1.529 a “type of anxiety” and named it omicron after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.

WHO uses the Greek alphabet as a different classification system to simplify understanding and avoid stigmatizing the countries where they are first recognized.

ommicron, that can be pronounced -mə-ˌkrän or -ˈmī-(ˌ)krän, both were first identified in South Africa last week, according to Merriam-Webster. The US on Monday began restricting travel from South Africa and several other countries due to the latest “types of concern”.

What are the symptoms?

The WHO states that there is no evidence that the symptoms associated with Omicron are any different from those caused by other forms.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a private physician and president of the South African Medical Association, was one of the first doctors in South Africa to discover the new variant.

She told Reuters the symptoms of the Omicron variant were “very mild” and could be treated at home. These infections were first reported in university students who were younger and had milder illness.

But like all coronavirus variants, the WHO said, omicrons can cause serious illness or death, especially among vulnerable populations.

Symptoms of COVID-19 caused by any known coronavirus type These may include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, tiredness, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, and runny nose.

Where has it been detected?

Scientists in South Africa say omicrons may be behind the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in the country’s most populous province, Gauteng.

Portuguese health authorities on Monday identified 13 cases of Omicron among members of a top soccer club. One of the players who tested positive had recently traveled to South Africa.

Canada’s health minister says the country’s first two cases of omicron were found in Ontario, after two individuals who had recently traveled from Nigeria tested positive.

The variant has also been detected in travelers from Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Australia and Israel.

Should I be worried about this?

In a media briefing on Monday, President Joe Biden said O’Micron is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”

As of Monday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no cases of Omicron had been identified in the US.

However, health experts believe that Omicron is already spreading undetected.

“Our surveillance in the US is still not what it should be by a long shot,” said Julie Swan, a professor at North Carolina State University who studies pandemic modeling and health systems. “It’s almost positive in the US but we’re not sequencing enough samples and we’re not testing enough people.”

President Biden:Omicron coronavirus version ’cause for concern, not for panic’

Omicron, latest coronavirus edition:How to pronounce it, how it got its Greek name, and what it means

The WHO said it was not clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease than other types of infection. However, preliminary data suggest that hospitalization rates are increasing in South Africa.

It is also unclear how well the virus builds up immunity from previous infections or COVID-19 vaccines to cause successful infections.

But despite such little information, health experts say that people should be cautious.

“Americans should take this version seriously,” Swann said. “Even if it’s not as bad as we feared, there will be another one that will be.”

Are there any deaths associated with Omicron?

As of Monday, no deaths associated with the new version had been reported.

What makes Omicron different from other variants?

It appears that Omicron has about 30 mutations in the spike protein of the coronavirus.

Of the approximately 30 mutations, 26 are unique to Omicron and do not appear in other forms of anxiety, according to Dr. Venky Sundararajan, co-founder and chief medical officer of Neference, a data analytics firm in Massachusetts.

In comparison, the alpha variant has only four unique mutations, beta has six, gamma has eight, and delta has seven.

“I’m less concerned about the fact that these mutations exist and I’m more concerned about the fact that we know so little about many of them,” Sundararajan said.

Mutations of a handful of omicrons that are present in other variants have been linked to the previous surge of positive COVID-19 cases, he said. Some of these mutations are believed to enhance transmission efficiency while others may help the virus evade immunity.

Most of these mutations are clustered at the ACE2 receptor and antibody binding sites, Soundararajan said, which are also sites targeted by the COVID-19 vaccine and antibodies.

The most intriguing mutation is the ins214EPE insertion, he said. This addition introduces three new amino acids, corresponding to nine nucleotides, in the genetic profile of the virus.

However, this does not mean that insertion is more dangerous. A pre-print study, not yet peer-reviewed, Soundararajan shows that the same association is present in seasonal coronaviruses.

This could mean that the virus spreads more easily, he said, but it could also mean that it evades the detection of only mild or asymptomatic disease.

“In evolution, when you see that a virus picks up one trait, it loses something else. You can see higher transmission but less chance of hospitalization,” Soundararajan said. “That’s the silver lining. It is possible.”

How quickly can it spread?

Scientists say more data is needed to determine the severity of the disease, but real-world evidence suggests that omicrons may be highly transmitted.

Dutch health officials said they detected more than 60 COVID-19 cases from 624 passengers on board two flights from South Africa to Amsterdam’s airport, Reuters reportedDespite testing negative or requiring proof of vaccination.

“Filtration is better on planes, there are mask requirements and most airline companies require a negative test, so I wouldn’t have expected a positive so quickly on that flight,” Swann said. “I found it a little worrying.”

Do COVID-19 Vaccines Protect Against Omicrons?

The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told Biden that he believes “current vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID,” reiterating that on top of full immunization But booster shots will provide stronger protection.

However, other scientists say that if the new variant is more contagious and vaccines against it are still effective, it will take several weeks to resolve.

COVID-19 vaccine developers with authorized shots in the US – Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – have all pledged to repurchase their shots to protect against Omicron “if necessary,” including an Omicron- May include specific boosters.

“It’s important that we stay proactive as the virus evolves,” said Moderna’s chief executive officer, Stephen Bansell. said in a statement on Friday, “Mutations in omicron variants are related and for several days, we have been moving forward as quickly as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant.”

What precautions should I take?

According to the WHO, preliminary evidence suggests that there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron compared to other forms of anxiety, but more information is needed.

Biden urged the public to be fully vaccinated, and if eligible, receive a COVID-19 booster as soon as possible. In people who received their first shot more than six months ago, decreased immunity could put them at risk of a breakthrough infection.

The CDC updated its guidance Monday afternoon, recommending that all adults age 18 and older get a booster shot six months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series, or two months after their initial J&J vaccine. needed.

“If you’re 18 and older and fully vaccinated before June 1, get a booster shot today,” Biden said. “They’re free and available in 80,000 locations from coast to coast. Don’t wait.”

Swann said anyone who gathers on vacation with nonessential household members should consider getting tested for COVID-19. She also urged anyone away from their community to get tested.

“It will allow us to handle things,” she said. “It will continue to spread but will give us time to figure out what it is and what it means, and be prepared for it.”

Americans should also consider wearing masks, regardless of vaccination status, especially around people with compromised immune systems, who are at higher risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

Biden urged parents to vaccinate their children now that the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is authorized for children ages 5 to 11.

“Most of our children across America are not fully vaccinated yet,” Swann said. “People who are not fully protected from the full recommended dose of vaccines should be extra careful in gathering with anyone outside their home.”

Contribution: Associated Press. Follow Adriana Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

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