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Q: What is omicron, and why are people concerned about it?

The omicron variant is a new variant of the COVID-19 virus. Scientists are concerned about it because omicron has many more mutations than other COVID variants. That means it’s significantly different from the other variants and may behave in different ways.

Because omicron is so new, scientists are still working to understand it. It’s still unclear whether omicron will cause more severe illness than other variants. However, it appears to spread more easily. Another key difference is that home tests are not as accurate in detecting an infection and may give you a false negative result. However, if your home test is positive you can say that you have COVID and do not need further testing - start isolating and contact your doctor for further recommendations.

It also appears more likely to cause breakthrough infections in people who have already been vaccinated. However, current vaccines should still protect you from severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

The best way to protect yourself from omicron and other variants of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. If you get vaccinated, even if you do get a breakthrough infection, you are more likely to have a mild illness and recover quickly.

Finally, masks continue to protect against all variants. The CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public, indoor spaces. Your mask should fit over your nose and mouth and have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out.

If you have symptoms or think you may be infected with COVID-19, contact your doctor or get tested so you can self-isolate and avoid transmitting it to others.

Travis W. Glenn, MD

Family medicine

Glenn Family Medicine, LLC
85 Maui Lani Parkway
Wailuku, , HI 96793