Omicron

Omicron is a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. On December 4, 2021, the Omicron variant was first detected in Wisconsin. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get fully vaccinated and boosted, combined with prevention strategies like wearing masks, staying home if you’re sick, maintaining good hand hygiene, avoiding large gatherings, and getting tested if you’re experiencing symptoms. Find a local vaccine clinic at www.wcvaccine.org.

What We Know About the Omicron Variant

Omicron may cause more illness, but we don’t know for sure yet.
Due to the similarities between Omicron and variants like Delta, scientists are concerned about the potential of the Omicron variant to spread more easily, cause more severe disease, or more easily infect people with prior immunity (either from vaccination or prior infection). However, there is not enough evidence to say to what extent any of these are true.

It is important to get tested.
Wisconsin has systems in place to find the Omicron variant when someone who has it tests positive. It’s important for anyone—including children—who has symptoms or is exposed to get tested. 

Everyone should get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.
The best protection against COVID, including Omicron, is for people ages 5 and older to be vaccinated. If you are already vaccinated, you should get a booster dose. Find a local vaccine clinic at www.wcvaccine.org.

Q&A

What is the Omicron variant?
Omicron is a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. On December 4, 2021, the Omicron variant was first detected in Wisconsin.

Are the vaccines effective against this variant?
Studies are underway to answer that question. While it is possible that current vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant, vaccine availability is limited in many African countries, and South African officials are reporting that most of the people there who are sick due to the omicron variant were not vaccinated. Vaccines remain widely available in the U.S. and the Omicron variant is yet another reason to get vaccinated and get a booster if you are eligible. Find a vaccination location at www.wcvaccine.org.

 
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 life threatening 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 indoor public settings or in a crowded environment.

If I already had COVID, am I protected against Omicron?
We don’t know yet. There will be more information in the coming days and weeks. If you are not already, getting vaccinated or getting a booster dose will provide a better defense against Omicron and all COVID variants.

Do current tests still detect COVID if it’s the Omicron variant?
The current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test used to confirm a COVID-19 infection continues to detect infection with the Omicron variant. This is the test most often done at clinics and pharmacies, including our testing site at Sunnyview Expo Center. Studies are ongoing to determine whether Omicron affects other types of tests, including rapid antigen tests. 

Additional Resources:

CDC:

 

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)

 

Last updated: 12/7/21, 9:30 a.m.