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What is the Omicron variant?

Omicron is a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. The Omicron variant has been detected in a growing number of countries, including the United States.

How easily does Omicron spread?

The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19. However, how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown. As with the original virus and other variants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.

Will Omicron cause more severe illness?

More data are needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.

Will vaccines work against Omicron?

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. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.

Will treatments work against Omicron?

Scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of Omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective.

Is Omicron as serious a health risk as other variants? Is it more or less contagious?

Health officials are collecting data to be able to answer these questions. In the meantime, it is important to remember that any coronavirus infection can be serious especially in people with underlying medical conditions. The best way to prevent the spread of this new variant or any other variant is to get vaccinated, get a booster if you are eligible, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings or in a crowded environment.

What can I do to protect myself from Omicron?

Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. Additionally, everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

Masks offer protection against all variants. CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status. CDC provides advice about masks for people who want to learn more about what type of mask is right for them depending on their circumstances.

Tests can tell you if you are currently infected with COVID-19. Get tested if you are a close contact of someone who has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 or if your have symptoms.