What You Need to Know About Variants


Information about Variants: Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some variants emerge and disappear while others persist. New variants will continue to emerge. CDC and other public health organizations monitor all variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the United States and globally.


Omicron Variant

The Omicron variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Forecasts by CDC and its public health partners predict a surge of COVID-19 cases.

What You Need to Know

  • New variants of the virus are expected to occur.

  • Slowing the spread of the virus, by protecting yourself and others, can help slow the emergence of new variants.

  • The Omicron variant causes more infections and spreads faster than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain of the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • CDC is working with state and local public health officials to monitor the spread of all variants, including Omicron.

  • Getting a vaccine reduces your risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines, which includes getting a booster when eligible, further improves your protection.

Variants Are Expected

Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some variants emerge and disappear while others persist. New variants will continue to emerge. CDC and other public health organizations monitor all variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the United States and globally.

Scientists monitor all variants but may classify certain ones as variants being monitored, variants of interest, variants of concern and variants of high consequence. Some variants spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. Even if a variant causes less severe disease in general, an increase in the overall number of cases could cause an increase in hospitalizations, put more strain on healthcare resources and potentially lead to more deaths.


Variants of Concern


Omicron - B.1.1.529

First identified: South Africa

Spread: Spreads more easily than other variants. CDC is working with state and local public health officials to monitor the spread of Omicron.


Symptoms: Please refer to Symptoms of COVID-19 | CDC


Severe illness and death: Data suggest that Omicron is less severe in general. However, a surge in cases may lead to significant increases in hospitalization and death. More data are needed to fully understand the severity of illness and death associated with this variant.


Vaccine: Breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated are expected, but being up to date on recommended vaccines is effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.


Treatments: Some, but not all, monoclonal antibody treatments remain effective against Omicron. Public health agencies work with healthcare providers to ensure that effective treatments are used appropriately to treat patients.


Delta - B.1.617.2


First identified: India

Spread: May spread more easily than other variants.


Symptoms: Please refer to Symptoms of COVID-19 | CDC


Severe illness and death: May cause more severe cases than the other variants


Vaccine: Breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated are expected, but being up to date on recommended vaccines is effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Early evidence suggests that people who are up to date with their vaccines who become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others. All FDA-approved or authorized vaccines are effective against severe illness, hospitalization, and death


Treatments: All FDA-authorized monoclonal antibody treatments are effective against infection with Delta.


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