Omicron variant: 8 things we know and 4 things we don't know

On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization designated the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern and named it omicron, after the Greek letter.

The variant is not well-understood yet, and it's been detected in many countries since it was discovered.

Here's what we know and what we don't know about the new variant:

What we know

  1. Omicron has several mutations that could affect how it behaves, how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.
  2. Those mutations make it easy to quickly identify with a nasal swab and a PCR test, according to The New York Times.
  3. Treatments such as corticosteroids and IL-6 receptor blockers are effective for managing patients with severe COVID-19, including illness caused by omicron.
  4. The variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa.
  5. It has since been identified on every continent except Antarctica.
  6. U.S. officials have detected omicron in more than 20 states, including New York, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota and Hawaii.
  7. GlaxoSmithKline said its monoclonal antibody treatment is effective against omicron.
  8. Vaccine-makers believe they can easily tweak their formulas to bolster effectiveness against omicron and other new variants.

What we don't know

  1. Do the current vaccines provide ample protection?
  2. Is there a higher risk of people previously infected with COVID-19 becoming reinfected with omicron when compared to other variants?
  3. Is omicron more contagious than other variants?
  4. Do rapid antigen tests detect omicron as easily as other variants?

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