First reported in South Africa, the new COVID-19 variant “omicron” has been announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been dubbed a variant of concern with much information being uncovered each day.
The omicron variant, classification named variant B.1.1.529, has several mutations of the COVID-19 virus’ genes. Mutations, or “copying errors,” of the virus’s genes occur as the cells of the virus reproduce themselves in living hosts. These mutations lead to changes in the virus’ proteins which can then alter how infectious a virus is, how severe the disease it may causes may be, or how resistant to it might be to someone’s antibodies. As long as there are people who are not vaccinated, it allows room for the virus to continue to replicate and mutate and possibly mutate around the protection of the current vaccine.
Scientists are still researching if the omicron variant is more transmissible, and there is a lot we still do not know about this variant. However, the best way to protect yourself is by continuing to social distance, thorough handwashing, wearing a mask, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and getting your booster vaccine dose. If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or where to get one, talk with your primary care provider or visit UofLHealth.org/Louisville-COVID-19-Vaccinations.
Current Variants to Date:
- Alpha (B.1.1.7): This variant was first detected in the U.S. in December 2020
- Beta (B.1.351): This variant was first detected in South Africa in December 2020
- Gamma (P.1): This variant was first detected in Japan when travelers from Brazil when completing a routine screening at the airport In January 2021
- Delta (B.1.617.2): March 2021, this variant was first detected in the U.S.
- Lambda (C.37): This variant was first detected in Peru December 2020
- Mu (B.1.621): This variant was first detected in Colombia
- Omicron (B.1.1.529): This variant was first detected in South Africa