Omicron: What is it?


Alissa Eckert, MSMI; Dan Higgins, MAMS at CDC organization

3d representation of a COVID-19 particle

The Omicron COVID variant is now the predominant cause of infections in the U.S. This variant is more infectious, yet more mild than the last major strain, Delta.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as the CDC, symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms are similar across all COVID variants, although vary in severity, typically being more mild in Omicron cases. Omicron is able to transmit itself faster by resting in the nose and throat. Up to 30 mutations in the spike protein allow the virus to more easily infect patients that have been vaccinated; because of the faster transmissibility, children are more susceptible to this variant of the virus

Beyond the regular Omicron, National Geographic reports that a “stealth” Omicron subvariant has also been discovered, seemingly being more transmissible and able to dodge the immune system’s response. It has been able to stay under the radar so long because of a missing mutation in the spike protein necessary for recognition in PCR COVID tests. Hence the “stealth” title.

Lausd has also been greatly affected by the Omicron variant. On their COVID report card, which shows the amount of tests as well as positive cases. In a previous article, It was reported that, “…as of October 27 [2021], in the last seven days, there have been over 450,000 students tested for COVID-19 and 331 positive tests, with a 0.07% positive test rate.” Since then, as of February 2, 2022, there were over 340,000 students tested, with over 11k positive cases, with about a 3.17% positive test rate. That is almost 36 times higher than last October.

More proof of the Omicron’s effect is shown in the amount of students tested, almost 100,000 less students are being tested because they are not allowed to be tested 90-days after a positive case. The start of the semester had even more positive cases, in the 40,000s presumably those contracted through the end of the vacation.

Since February 2,2022, LAUSD has been able to get the problem more under control, as of February 19, 2022, there have been over 315,000 students tested, with about 3000 positive cases, with about 0.9% positive test rate. Although it is still larger than the count from last year in October, the number has dropped significantly.

This research article by Research Square goes in depth on the nature of Omicron and the other variants with various tests and figures.

The CDC stated in their science brief that the variant was first discovered in South Africa, who “reported the identification of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529, to the World Health Organization (WHO)”. They were first detected in medical samples collected on November 11th, 2021 in Botswana and on November 14th, 2021 in South Africa.