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Updated Jan. 28, 2022

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly than other strains of the virus because it has more mutations than any other variant so far. Many of the mutations are in the spike protein, which relates to how the virus is spread.

The highly contagious COVID-19 variant is causing an increase in cases and a high demand for testing. If you’ve been exposed to someone with the virus or have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for a test or your results, stay home and isolate from others.

All of the variants, including delta and omicron, cause similar COVID-19 symptoms, including cough, fever and fatigue. There is some evidence that fewer people with omicron lose their taste and smell. Omicron is also less likely to cause severe disease such as pneumonia that may require treatment in the hospital.

In fully vaccinated and/or boosted people, omicron symptoms tend to be mild. In unvaccinated people, symptoms may be quite severe, possibly leading to hospitalization or even death.

What are omicron symptoms? Are they different in any way?

Omicron is also more likely to cause symptoms even if you’ve been exposed or tested positive in the past.

How long do omicron symptoms last?

Most people who test positive with any variant of COVID-19 typically experience some symptoms for a couple weeks. People who have long COVID-19 symptoms can experience health problems for four or more weeks after first being infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What is the omicron variant BA.2? How is it different than the original omicron variant?

The new omicron variant BA.2 appears to be about 50% more transmissible than the original omicron strain BA.1. Preliminary data suggests omicron BA.1 causes the same severity of disease and symptoms, but it’s affecting younger people more.

We don’t know how common reinfection is, but there are reports that several people have been infected with omicron BA.1, and within a month infected with omicron BA.2. It appears that this version of omicron is either so much more highly infectious that it can overcome vaccine or previous infection immunity, or it can evade immunity due to the mutations that it has.

To protect yourself, getting COVID-19 vaccines are still important. The second most important thing is masking. Wearing an N95 will provide the best protection against these new variants.

Source: UC Davis Health
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