The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraged the public not to panic amid reports about the surge in COVID-19 cases brought about by the omicron variant. The national public health agency said the United States already has the “tools” to combat the new strain and prevent it from harming more people.

Omicron In The U.S.

Since December, several states and territories have already been reporting about the rise in SARS-CoV-2 transmissions due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant. As of the latest update from the CDC published Wednesday, omicron is already the dominant variant in the country.

The latest figures presented by the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker showed that for the previous week, Jan. 23 to 29, the total cases attributed to the omicron variant easily outnumbered those of delta and other strains. Data used by the tracker were from the National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance (NS3) program and other commercial and academic laboratories associated with the CDC.

The omicron variant has mutations that enable it to spread more easily than the original virus and the previous variants. The CDC said that anyone with omicron can spread the virus regardless of their vaccination status. This means even if one is vaccinated or doesn’t have symptoms, they can still transmit the virus.

Omicron Symptoms

Medical experts have been reiterating since late last year that the symptoms of an omicron infection are “mostly mild.” However, the presence and severity of the symptoms can still be affected by other factors, such as vaccination status, underlying medical conditions, age and history of prior infection.

The top five most common symptoms of omicron listed by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance are runny nose, sore throat with a cough, loss of smell or taste, muscle and back pains and, lastly, fatigue or tiredness. However, the organization pointed out that based on the scientific data it has collected, the loss of smell or taste has become rarer in omicron cases.

The CDC noted that even if omicron is known to cause less severe disease than the previous variants, some people may still develop a severe infection, need hospitalization and could die from the variant. The surge in cases due to omicron could also overwhelm the healthcare system once again.

Tools To Fight Omicron

Despite all the hullabaloos over omicron’s emergence, the CDC said the general public should not be afraid of the new variant of concern because the tools to combat its transmission have long been available. According to the agency, getting vaccinated and staying up to date with the COVID-19 vaccines is the best way to protect oneself and others against omicron.

When eligible, everyone 5 years old and above should get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. They should also stay up to date with their jabs and boosters to get maximum protection against omicron and other emerging strains.

Aside from vaccination, wearing well-fitting masks, practicing social distancing and testing for COVID-19 can help make a big difference in the world’s fight against the novel coronavirus. It is also recommended to reach out to a medical professional or healthcare provider for inquiries about testing, COVID management and prevention.