Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant that seems to be everywhere these days. But what exactly is Omicron and how dangerous is it?

Saskatchewan's Dr. Katherine Smart, the President of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), said the newest variant of COVID-19 is completely different from when the pandemic began.

"Well it's really evolved to be a very different virus in terms of mutations on omicron," remarked Smart. "So it is definitely a different strain than the original strain of COVID in terms of what does it look like as a virus. I think the question is how does it compare to previous strains that we've already seen in terms of attack rate and severity of disease it's caused. And the biggest thing that's different about omicron is just how infectious it is".

With Omicron being more infectious due to it being air-based as well as droplet-based, it's important now more than ever to ensure you have a well-fitted mask that is comfortable to wear. Only taking it off for things like eating and drinking while in a public setting.

The symptoms of Omicron have been observed as less severe compared to the original COVID-19 strand, causing some to consider it less of a threat.

"Well I think it's not less of a danger necessarily because it is so contagious," Dr. Smart said. "I think it's important for the public to understand that not everyone is at the same level of risk. If you're fully vaccinated the risk of you getting an illness from any strain of COVID is very low. If you've been boosted, it's offering protection against being infected in the first place and even more and better protection against hospitalization and severe disease."

In order to stay healthy, it is important for people to take the necessary steps to avoid risk of infection.

"Because it's spreading more efficiently through the air, what you can do personally is you can upgrade your mask," reminds Smart. "Using a respirator, a KN95 or an N95 is going to provide better protection. Limiting your social contacts is really important. You can have the best mask in the world, but if you are taking it on and off all the time, it's not doing anything."

Omicron entered the province only recently, and already the provincial case count is at an all-time high at 91,860.

 

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