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Omicron is new, but the old tips for protecting yourself still apply.


For those exhausted and tired after nearly two years of the pandemic, the news of a new variant of Covid-19 has been like a punch in the guts. Would this variant be more dangerous? Would vaccines continue to be protective? The confinements would they return?

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While many questions about the omicron variant remain unanswered, scientists who have dedicated their careers to studying respiratory viruses offer this reminder: it is still an airborne virus, which spreads not only through droplets. from sneezing and coughing, but also from talking and breathing near another. anybody.

The proven infection control advice is valid, the experts said.

Wear masks. Wash your hands. Maintain an appropriate physical distance from strangers, especially indoors. And by all means, they say, get vaccinated.

“We don’t have to sit around and fall victim to this virus,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

How the omicron variant affects the available vaccines remains unclear. But experts say that even if the variant decreases the effectiveness of the shots, it is highly unlikely that it will render them useless.

“Partial protection is better than no protection,” Schaffner said.

Dr Brian Garibaldi, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, agreed.

“It’s not like vaccines are an on-off switch where you’re going to go from a high level of protection against the delta variant to no level of protection against the omicron.”

The highly transmissible delta variant remains the dominant strain of the virus worldwide, as well as in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet public health experts have used their most measured voices to predict what they are all certain will happen in the next few days: Omicron will be detected in the United States.

“I absolutely expect we will see cases here, but it doesn’t have to be a frenzy,” said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, infectious disease expert and associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. .

According to experts, what it should do is get people to reset their personal infection control measures.

“We would all like to let our guard down,” said Dr. William Petri, chief of the division of infectious diseases and international health at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville.

But “it’s up to us to continue to do common sense things that protect others, like wearing masks when you’re at the grocery store,” he said.

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This includes immunization of the unvaccinated and booster shots for those who have not yet received them.

Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 will do whatever they can to survive. That’s why they tend to evolve to become more contagious, finding ways to get around the best defenses.

Even though omicron is trying to escape our bodyguards, Wolfe said, referring to vaccines, “a reminder just puts a whole bunch of extra guards at the front door.”

Garibaldi, of Johns Hopkins, said that “it’s just another sign it’s time to step up.”

“If you haven’t been vaccinated and are able to do it, what are you waiting for?

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