If you’ve been following the news lately, you’re probably aware that there’s a new coronavirus variant spreading around the world. While we’re still learning about the omicron variant, experts believe it could take hold and cause new infections to surge. Here’s what you need to know about the omicron variant and how to keep your family safe.
What is the omicron variant?
The SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant (B.1.1.529) was first identified in Botswana and South Africa. Named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, the World Health Organization recently declared omicron a “variant of concern” because of its high number of mutations that have the potential to make the virus more transmissible and less susceptible to existing vaccines.
As with any other variant of concern, the emergence of omicron brings many questions that need to be answered with sound data and evidence. These questions include: “do I need a new vaccine to be protected?”; “will it spread faster than other viruses?”; “can this virus be detected using the testing kits available in the drug stores and in the hospital?”; “if someone has this variant strain, will it make people sicker?”; “do the current medications still work to treat the people infected with this variant strain?”
Scientists expect to learn more about the omicron variant in the coming weeks. At the moment, there is no reason to believe it is resistant to current vaccines.
How can I protect myself from the omicron variant?
While public health and medical professionals worldwide rush to learn more about the omicron variant, you have the power to keep omicron and other viruses away from you and your family. The power comes from Universal Precautions that have proven effective against not only COVID-19 but many viruses that spread from person to person when people talk, laugh, eat, sneeze, cough and do other activities with the viruses being propelled into the air.
The Universal Precautions have multiple layers. The more layers you do and the more often you do them, the more effective they are to protect you, your family and others around you.
- Layer 1: Stay healthy and get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn. Right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is available for children 5 years and older. Consult your healthcare providers for further guidance.
- Layer 2: Clean your hands often with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Hand sanitizer can effectively kill the germs on your hands and prevent harmful germs to enter your body and spreading to others. Wash your hands with soap and water to remove the germs from your hands.
- Layer 3: Clean and disinfect counter surfaces often. You can obtain germicidal wipes in the grocery store. Using them to clean countertops, shared surfaces, etc. can remove germs and kill them if any remain.
- Layer 4: Avoid crowds and keep a minimum of 6 feet away from others.
- Layer 5: When it is not possible to be 6 feet away from others or in an indoor space, wear a mask that fits you.
- Layer 6: Ask friends and family to hold off visiting if they develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, the flu or other infectious diseases.
- Layer 7: If you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, the flu or other infectious diseases, self-isolate until you recover. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
As we live in this environment that is shared with many known or unknown viruses and other types of germs, we believe your health is in your hands.