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What is omicron, and other questions about the new coronavirus variant identified in southern Africa – The Washington Post

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A potentially more transmissible variant of the coronavirus, which causes covid-19, is raising concern around the globe.
Health authorities say the new variant, known by the Greek letter omicron, was first identified in southern Africa. Scientists there quickly put the world on alert, noting that the variant had an unusually high number of mutations, including some that could make it adept at evading the body’s natural or vaccine-acquired immune response.
Omicron has been reported in more than six dozen countries including the United States, where officials say omicron is spreading rapidly.
World leaders have responded by placing new restrictions on travel, ramping up vaccination and booster drives, increasing testing and encouraging an already pandemic-fatigued public to double down on measures like wearing masks and social distancing. Vaccine makers say they stand ready to tweak their shots if needed.
How scary is omicron? Scientists are racing to find answers.
That said, there is too little research to draw conclusions about how omicron will affect the United States and the rest of the world. In a recent address from the White House, President Biden said the variant is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic.” He told Americans, “We have more tools to fight the variant than we’ve ever had before.”
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