Every day, millions of people worldwide are doing two things: they’re heading into work, and they’re checking on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and the most recent variants that have emerged throughout the U.S. and the world. And outside of a few sources like Medical News Today debunking the emergence of “Deltacron” (which was likely the result of contaminated Delta and Omicron variant samples in a Cyprus laboratory), most organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are closely monitoring the latest variant of SARS-CoV-2: Omicron. Here’s what the experts are saying, and ways you can recognize symptoms and reduce the transmission of the latest strain.
As of December 2021, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in most U.S. states and territories and continues to increase in the proportion of cases caused by this new strain, according to the CDC. As a country, the United States is still in the throes of a huge upswing in cases, with the top ten most affected states seeing their confirmed case number increasing by 40 to 150% when compared to the numbers collected one week earlier. This is creating issues in the healthcare sector as responses to vaccine mandates and other safety measures continue to be mixed, and as state and federal guidelines shift rapidly.
The Omicron variant has been proven to be the most highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 that we’ve seen so far. This is partially due to the fact that current vaccines do not protect people from the latest variant as well as they did the original virus and its Delta variant. According to a recent study, Omicron was found to be 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious than Delta.
Many are reporting that Omicron is causing fewer deaths and hospitalizations due to it being a “weaker” strain, but the decline in severe cases is owed mostly due to the fact that large portions of the U.S. population have been vaccinated and/or boosted.
In keeping with that trend, Omicron also shortens the time between exposure and sickness. The original virus had an incubation of about 5 days and Delta about 4, patients with Omicron are seeing symptoms as soon as two or three days after being infected. So the next question is: what symptoms should I be looking for?
Like with the Delta variant, Omicron symptoms vary from previous strains. COVID-19 as a whole causes a wide array of symptoms, including cough, runny nose, fever, headache, and fatigue.
Omicron-infected patients don’t seem to get the cough or fever as often, but reports of runny nose, sneezing, headaches, and fatigue are still prevalent. Those who come down with this variant also don’t report as many instances of losing their sense of smell, but one new symptom has emerged: night sweats. This strain often settles more in your upper airway and is less likely to attack lung tissue, which decreases the chances of suffering from moderate to severe pneumonia.
The WHO (World Health Organization) recently had their tenth meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and here’s what the members and advisors had to say.
The committee discussed key issues, including:
- The logistics of harmonizing the national and global response to outbreaks, specifically in relation to international travel
- Vaccination strategies and the evolution of testing strategies for COVID-19 and all variants
- Increasing concerns about the personal safety of frontline workers and pandemic response leaders
- Focusing on response efforts by addressing the dual needs to suppress transmission as well as mitigate and decrease the occurrence of severe outcomes.
The committee also shared some key insights. First, blanket travel bans are not as effective at curbing the international spread of Omicron cases, and they can actually discourage people from reporting exposure and positive test results because those individuals don’t want a variant that has largely been misconstrued as “not severe” to impact their travel plans.
Second, those vaccines that are currently on the market, while proving effective at reducing the risk of severe disease and death, do not totally eliminate the risk of infection or transmission. There are also growing concerns that the syringes used to deliver the vaccines are experiencing supply shortages, which can affect vaccine availability in specific countries and regions.
The World Health Organization shared several recommendations, many of which had been modified or extended in light of global Omicron surges.
Do Rapid Antigen Tests Still Detect Omicron?
While there are dozens of different rapid antigen tests for COVID-19, there have been concerns that these tests may be less effective at detecting Omicron cases versus older variants of the virus. However, many studies have shown that rapid antigen tests have no problem physically detecting the Omicron variant.
These tests, though extensive analysis hasn’t been done due to the extremely recent emergence of Omicron, have still been found to fully detect the virus in those individuals who have the live virus and are still the most likely to be contagious – which is the primary goal for conducting widespread or business-wide testing.
Help Stop the Spread of Omicron with Teleproctored Testing from Reliant Health Services
As Omicron spreads, it becomes more important not to send your community members, coworkers, and employees to doctor’s offices and hospitals if they need to be tested for COVID and any of the following apply:
- They are vaccinated and/or have received their vaccination booster
- They need to be tested to comply with recent OSHA mandates
- They’ve been exposed to but are not experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19
Plus, getting your routine testing done in healthcare environments is a hassle – you have the long wait times, the potential exposure to others with COVID-19, and the added expense of a medical visit.
That’s why Reliant Health Services offers business and community testing solutions for organizations with 100 to 50,000+ employees, associates, and volunteers.