Gov Edwards Says Omicron Variant “Very Concerning” – Here’s 5 Things You Need to Know

On Sunday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said that news of a new COVID-19 “variant of concern” is “very concerning.” The Omicron variant was named a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Friday – it is the most serious designation of a COVID-19 variant. Here is everything we know about the new variant so far:

Scientists aren’t sure yet if it’s more transmissible than Delta

According to the World Health Organization, there isn’t enough data on Omicron yet to determine if it’s more transmissible than other variants like Delta. What is clear is that Omicron itself already has several mutations that may impact how easily it spreads and the severity of illness that it might cause. Epidemiologic studies are currently underway to understand those things.

What is clear is that preliminary data does show a current rise in infections in South Africa – where the variant is being studied – and in the severity of the disease.

There may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron

Having already had COVID-19 might not provide you with much protection against Omicron. According to the WHO, preliminary evidence gathered by scientists shows an increased risk of reinfection – making getting vaccinated even more important.

Vaccines remain the best defense against all COVID-19 variants

Although Omicron may be better able to evade your body’s natural immune responses – both those due to natural infection and due to vaccination – vaccines remain the best defense against severe illness and death. That being said, both Moderna and Phizer-BioNTech are working to formulate Omicron-specific booster shots. Moderna Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said on Sunday that they could roll out a reformulated booster in early 2022.

Current PCR tests can detect Omicron

PCR tests are the most commonly used to detect COVID-19, and they can already detect Omicron as well. Further studies are ongoing to determine if the same is true for rapid antigen detection tests.

Some current treatments are effective against Omicron, but others may not be

Some treatments already in use against COVID-19 are still effective against Omicron – notably corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers. However, other treatments are still being assessed and may not be as effective given the specific changes that have occurred with the Omicron variant.

In general, the advice from experts remains the same: get vaccinated as soon as possible, wear a mask and social distance when indoors, and get tested as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms.

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