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The latest COVID-19 variant is here, folks! Just what is the Omicron variant and what do we need to know? Let's delve in.

What exactly is the Omicron COVID-19 variant?

Sound the alarm! Ring the bells! The latest reports of a new COVID-19 variant are setting the media landscape on fire! But seriously, a new COVID-19 variant, first discovered in South Africa seems to be on its way to the U.S., that is of course if it’s not already here. The latest variant, called the Omicron variant, seems to be of major concern for many countries, seeing as new regulations are being put in place. 

However, while some media outlets are making this latest variant sound like the endgame, others are still optimistic that the COVID-19 vaccines developed last year will still protect those who received them at a high rate, much like the vaccines did for the Delta variant. Now, with exciting new COVID-19 related treatments on the way as well as people getting their booster shots, just what kind of threat does Omicron produce? 

The World Health Organization said it will take a few weeks to understand the complexity of Omicron and how it will respond to both current vaccines and treatments. Covid symptoms have changed since the virus first emerged in China in late 2019. The “Alpha” and “Delta” variants, first discovered in the U.K. and India, respectively, were seen to cause different symptoms. So just what might Omicron present? Let’s see. 

What is the Omicron variant? 

The Omicron variant seems to be the next hottest variant in the saga of COVID-19, following up the Delta variant which first became a major concern around Spring 2021. That being said, while this latest variant is of concern for many countries, forcing new travel restrictions and unveiling new protocols, it would seem as if the calmest person regarding this latest variant is the actual doctor who first discovered this new strain. 

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first person to raise the alarm over Omicron, told the BBC on Sunday that she started to see patients around November 18th presenting with “unusual symptoms” that differed slightly from those associated with the Delta variant, which is the most virulent strain of the virus to date and globally dominant. 

“It actually started with a male patient who’s around the age of thirty-three, and he said to me that he’s just [been] extremely tired for the past few days and he’s got these body aches and pains with a bit of a headache,” she said, highlighting how the symptoms for this new variant of interests, thus far, appear to be “extremely mild”. So, what’s the best thing we can do to stay protected? Wear a mask in public and get vaccinated! 

U.S. coronavirus vaccine update

According to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 59% of U.S. citizens have been fully vaccinated for the coronavirus. 

As of today, there are three vaccines that are being used to fight the spread of COVID-19 and end the current global pandemic. The first vaccine, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, was first administered in the U.S. at the end of 2020. The second vaccine to fight COVID-19 was developed by Moderna, which was also first given the green light for emergency use at the tail-end of 2020. 

Both of these coronavirus vaccines are estimated to combat the coronavirus with an impressive effectiveness rate of over 91%. However, since the evolving Delta variant made its way to the states, the vaccine efficacy has dropped by a small amount but is still reportedly very effective. A third coronavirus vaccine, this time developed by Johnson & Johnson, was given the OK in early 2021, and only requires a single shot. Stay healthy! 

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