NewsLocal News


Omicron and delta: What's the difference between the variants?

Local doctor explains what we know and what we don't
Omicron and Delta: What's the difference?
Posted at 7:20 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 21:20:42-05

DENVER — Despite the low number of confirmed omicron variant cases in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis said it is only a matter of time before it becomes the dominant variant in the state.

As of Friday evening, five recorded cases of the omicron variant have been reported in Colorado.

Since August of 2020, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been monitoring COVID-19 levels in wastewater. Wastewater can show the presence of a virus before clinical testing results are available. Those with CDPHE report just under half of all COVID-19 cases can be revealed through wastewater.

CDPHE's wastewater surveillance has found "additional circulation of the omicron variant in sewage." Those with the state health department said research indicates the omicron variant is more transmissible than other variants, and they expect to see additional cases in the future and possibly community spread.

The World Health Organization said it is "not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible, causes more or less severe disease compared to other variants or impacts the effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines." WHO reports COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the variants, when it comes to protecting against severe reactions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the omicron variant will likely spread quicker than the original strain, but how easily it spreads compared to the delta variant is still unknown. The CDC is waiting on further data to determine if omicron causes more or less severe illness than other variants.

New research based on preliminary data out of Hong Kong, suggests the omicron variant can multiply 70 times faster in the respiratory tract than the delta variant.

A local pediatrician, Dr. Lucas Henderson, explained what we know so far about the omicron variant when compared to delta:

“In states like Colorado, we've seen cases that have occurred that didn't have a travel component. So, it seems like there is spread within the community, just in terms of the level of sickness that people get with omicron versus delta. It's not really clear yet whether it's you're kind of going to be more severe in terms of omicron versus delta." Henderson said. "The other thing that seems concerning is that it seems to be out-competing delta in the regions where it's really started to take off."

Dr. Henderson said the impacts of the virus stretch far beyond the individual.

"If there's more disease around, even if it's not necessarily as severe, but there are more people sick, that could lead to the same number of severe illnesses that you might have gotten otherwise," Henderson said.