ORLANDO, Fla. — There’s a new COVID-19 variant making its way across the globe.
On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a “variant of concern” and named it omicron.
Here are nine things to know about the variant:
1. According to the CDC, the majority of U.S. states have reported cases of the omicron variant. Florida reported its first case on Dec. 7.
2. The new variant was first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa.
3. Federal health officials on Dec. 20 declared omicron the dominant coronavirus variant in the U.S., citing a nearly six-fold increase in the weeks-old strain’s share of new infections in only one week.
4. Early studies suggest that vaccinated people will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing omicron infection; but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.
5. The rapid growth rate in omicron infections is believed to result from a combination of increased transmissibility and the ability to evade immunity conferred by past infection or vaccination, the CDC said.
6. The CDC said early data suggest Omicron infection might be less severe than infection with prior variants; however, reliable data on clinical severity remain limited.
7. The CDC said data shows that vaccinated people who either receive a booster dose or who were also previously infected are likely to have stronger protection against Omicron
8. The CDC expects that anyone with omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
9. Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur.