The first case of the Omicron variant was recently reported in the United States, and now, other cases are starting to emerge.
“It seems to be spreading quickly in South Africa, so that is concerning because for the last couple of months no other variant has really been able to compete with Delta,” explained Daniel Rhoads, MD, microbiologist for Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Rhoads said there is still a lot to learn about the new variant, like whether it is more contagious than Delta – which is the dominant variant circulating right now.
It’s also unclear whether it can cause more severe symptoms.
He said now that the holidays have arrived and a new variant is here, it’s more important than ever to be careful with COVID-19. He recommends wearing a mask and social distancing when possible.
The vaccine can also help provide protection. In addition, it can prevent the virus from further mutating.
“The mutations occur randomly, so the more opportunities to mutate, the more opportunities there are for an occasional advantageous mutation,” said Dr. Rhoads. “When millions of people are infected, that gives the virus millions of more opportunities to mutate and maybe land on one of those advantageous mutations.”
Dr. Rhoads also encourages individuals to continue getting tested for COVID-19. That data is useful when it comes to detecting new variants.