Less than a month after doctors sounded the alarm over a highly contagious COVID mutation discovered in South Africa, omicron has now become the dominant strain in the United States.
The CDC now says that 73% of all new COVID infections in the United States are omicron. This last variant has crossed Europe at an alarming speed. The first case in America was confirmed on November 22 in San Francisco in an individual recently arrived from South Africa.
Governor Phil Murphy announced the first omicron on December 3. Murphy said a woman in Georgia who traveled to New Jersey from South Africa tested positive on November 28 and was in isolation with mild symptoms.
Although it is the dominant strain in the United States, there have only been a handful of confirmed cases of omicron in New Jersey.
The state’s COVID dashboard doesn’t even list the omicron (B.1.1.529) in its tally of COVID variants present in the Garden State. The delta variant (B.1.617.2) remains the dominant strain in New Jersey, accounting for 97.9% of all positive tests in the past four weeks.
The data is somewhat subjective, as routine COVID testing is unable to identify specific strains of the original COVID virus. Random samples or suspected variant cases are selected for gene sequencing in a separate laboratory capable of detecting specific mutations in the genetic code of the virus.
Viral mutations are not unique to the coronavirus. All viruses mutate or evolve, with changes in the genetic code occurring during replication in a human host. The CDC currently lists 12 known and distinct variants of the original COVID virus. At least four, including delta and omicron, are in circulation in New Jersey.
A variant is a viral genome (genetic code) that may contain one or more mutations, according to the CDC. This is what scientists who track and study COVID are looking for when they determine how threatening the new version of the virus can be. In the case of omicron, changes in the genetic code have made it more transmissible and able to evade certain protections offered by vaccinations or natural immunity.
It is because of these many mutations that many scientists believe COVID-19 is here to stay.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden admitted on Monday that we are unlikely to ever eradicate COVID.
“Elimination may be too ambitious,” said Dr Fauci, “We are never going to eradicate this. We have only eradicated one virus, and that is smallpox.”
Fauci, speaking to the National Press Club, again suggested that annual COVID vaccine boosters may be needed for the foreseeable future.
Answers to 25 Common Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines began delivery in the United States on December 14, 2020. The rapid rollout came just over a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The The impressive speed with which vaccines have been developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from practical questions – how will I get vaccinated? – scientific questions – how do these vaccines work?
Read on for the answers to 25 common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.