OREGON HEATH AUTHORITY: Much still unknown about the Omicron variant. Here’s what we know today.

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The news of the Omicron variant emerging in several countries may cause many people anxiety about the unknown. The news comes on top of pandemic fatigue, as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue, and as we continue to deal with nearly two year’s worth of disruptions to our daily lives.

It may be helpful to know that viruses mutate or change constantly. The virus SARS-CoV-2 is no exception. Several variants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic, but you’ve probably only heard about a few, such as Alpha, Delta, and now Omicron.

Very little is known about Omicron today, but scientists from around the world are actively studying whether it is more contagious than Delta, causes more severe disease, can evade the protection our COVID-19 vaccines provide and how it responds to current treatments. We will know more in the coming weeks.

And while it may feel like we are back at square one, we are not. We now have highly effective tools to protect ourselves and our loved ones from infection.

Vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines are now available to everyone age 5 and older. The vaccines are highly effective at protecting against severe illness and death. If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, get vaccinated today.

Boosters. Booster doses of vaccine are recommended for everyone age 18 and older – six months after a vaccination of Pfizer or Moderna and two months after a dose of Johnson & Johnson. Boosters add an extra layer of protection as immunity may wane over time. Schedule your appointment today.

Tests. Testing options have expanded to include highly accurate rapid, at-home tests.

Masks. Wearing effective face coverings protects the wearer and those around them from infection. The virus primarily spreads from person to person through airborne particles and droplets. Well-fitted masks stop most particles and droplets.

Distancing and handwashing. Keeping at least six feet away from others outside your home and washing your hands frequently also protects against spreading the virus.

If you’re doing all of the above, you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself and those around you from getting COVID-19.

Now is a time for us to be aware, to keep up with the facts from reputable sources, and to redouble our efforts to stay safe while we wait to learn more about what this new variant holds for us.

Find a vaccine near you on the Get Vaccinated Oregon locator map.