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