At best, travel restrictions can help slow the spread of the variant and buy us time. At worst, they can hamper global communication, transparency and data sharing while discouraging countries from monitoring new variants. But while we wait to learn more about this viral variant, there are resources at our disposal to protect ourselves should Omicron spread to the United States. We should all do our part, which includes getting vaccinated and testing for Covid-19 when recommended while the medical community studies the variant and evaluates whether our vaccines will hold up against it.
Through there is much we don’t yet know about Omicron, here are three things we do know:
Omicron has a lot of mutations
The severity and infectiousness are not currently well understood
Overall, there has not been enough time for any understanding of the lethality of Omicron to be established. Gaining a better understanding of how Omicron behaves will take months of observations of additional subjects.
But as of now, the limited amount we know about Omicron leaves a lot of room for questions. Will it peter out like Mu or take over like Delta?
While we wait for answers, we need to continue to be vigilant. For all of us, this means getting vaccinated and, if eligible, getting the booster dose, wearing a mask and being mindful of the activities we engage in. If we get sick or are exposed to someone who is sick, getting tested and quarantining if we test positive is critical.
At the public health level, we must continue to employ all the strategies to box in the virus: vaccination, testing, sequencing, surveillance, contact tracing and offering support services to those who need to quarantine or isolate. On the medical end, we must continue to develop newer generations of vaccines that can be easily scaled up to meet any variant specific threats.
The Omicron variant is another reminder of the risk we all face when vaccination levels are low throughout the world. Allowing the virus to spread unchecked gives it more opportunities to mutate without the blanket of protection vaccines offer at the community level. Lagging vaccination rates anywhere are a threat everywhere.
We can’t afford to face another Delta-like foe. The toll is too great — emotionally, physically, economically and financially.
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