The Omicron variant of COVID-19 burst on the scene very quickly in the United States and around the world.
Here’s what we know about this variant from the growing body of scientific research, including the ways it is both similar and different to other COVID-19 variants.
What is the Omicron Variant?
The Omicron COVID-19 variant is one of four current “variants of concern” named by the World Health Organization. It was first detected by scientists in South Africa and Botswana in November 2021, and the first case of Omicron in the United States was reported on December 1, 2021.
Although there are a lot of questions still in the process of being answered about Omicron, health officials generally agree it is one of the fastest-spreading of the variants. A study currently under peer-review was published in mid-December by Hong Kong University’s faculty of medicine, found that Omicron replicated 70 times faster than Delta in human airways.
However, in the same study Omicron showed less severe lung infections than the original strain, reproducing 10 times slower in people’s lung tissues. Five other studies have now backed up these findings, although they are also under peer review. Scientists believe that these results, once validated, would indicate the Omicron variant causes less damage to people’s lungs than the Delta variant and the original COVID-19 variant.
One other potentially positive Omicron finding is that in animal studies the viral load (the amount of the virus that you have in your body) was less than in other variants. Recovery times were also quicker.
The Omicron variant symptoms may include a sore throat and upper respiratory infection. Breakthrough cases of Omicron after vaccination have already been detected, although initial data indicates that the booster (third) vaccination shot greatly reduces this risk. Vaccination also helps cut down on the severity of the symptoms that people with this variant experience.
CommunityLab Q&A Tip: Question: How do I find the rates of COVID-19 Omicron variants near me? Answer: You can check your state or county public health department website to find out this information for your area.
How Does the Omicron Variant Compare to the Other COVID-19 Variants?
How is Omicron Similar to the Other COVID-19 Variants?
- Omicron is considered a “variant of concern” just like the other main COVID-19 variants, Delta, Beta, and Gamma.
- Similar to the Delta variant, Omicron is spreading very quickly.
- Omicron shares some substitution mutations with other variants that have had partial resistance to vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments.
How is Omicron Different than the Other COVID-19 Variants?
- Omicron appears to spread much faster than all the other variants, including Delta.
- Omicron has an “unusually” high number of mutations.
- Omicron shows strong early indications of being more resistant to many of the widespread monoclonal antibody COVID-19 treatments. (However, the less widely distributed Sotrovimab monoclonal antibodies appear just as effective against it as against the other variants.)
- Omicron symptoms may be less severe than other variants, although the World Health Organization states this is still unclear.
- Early data collected indicates the Omicron infection rate is nearly five and a half time greater than the Delta variant.
- A growing body of evidence indicates that Omicron doesn’t infect lung tissue as severely as the original variant did, meaning respiratory issues and lung damage would be less severe.
Can COVID-19 Tests Detect the Omicron Variant?
The good news is that there is yet another similarity between Omicron and the other variants:
- PCR and rapid antigen tests can both detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Testing for specific variants such as Omicron is only conducted on a portion of positive COVID-19 tests. You’ll find out if you have the COVID-19 virus when you get tested, but you won’t know the type of variant that you have.
What are the Most Accurate COVID-19 Tests?
Compared to rapid antigen tests, PCR tests have fewer ‘false-negative’ results (meaning you might be infected with the COVID-19 virus even if the test indicates you’re not). PCR tests have been shown to have a negative test accuracy rate of 100%.
At least one study out of South Africa backed up these previous findings, highlighting that PCR tests using saliva samples were able to detect the Omicron variant better than nasal swab testing methods.
This means that if your PCR saliva test is negative, you can feel safer to travel, go to work, or meet up with family and friends. If you are positive for COVID-19, you can more quickly isolate and contact your healthcare provider to get the treatments you need to recover faster.
Finding COVID-19 Omicron Variant Testing Near Me
In many areas of the country, finding COVID-19 testing has been a challenge because the tests have been in short supply. At CommunityLab, we can help ease your mind about the COVID-19 virus by offering you our highly accurate No Swab Saliva Home Collection PCR COVID-19 Test– and you don’t even have to leave the safety and comfort of your own home or office.
These PCR tests confirm if you have an active COVID-19 infection through expert laboratory analysis. Simply follow the collection instructions and mail the test back to us for fast results that you can access online, within 24-hours after we receive your kit back from you.
We use the “gold standard” PCR laboratory testing with saliva collection method to give you the most accurate results. Whether you’ve been exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic or are already showing symptoms, we’re here to be part of the solution to slowing the spread of Omicron into your household and community.