Heading into the days that conclude the year of 2021, the new COVID-19 variant is causing concern to all Nevadans.

As has been widely reported, cases linked to the Omicron variant are soaring around the world as researchers race to find out more about the new strain.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Dec. 21, “The Nevada State Public Health Laboratory has confirmed three new cases of the Omicron variant in the state —two of them in Clark County — bringing the state total to five, the lab’s director reported.

The first confirmed case of the more-contagious mutant in Washoe County was found in a man in his early 50s who had recently traveled internationally and in the U.S., the Washoe County Health District said in a news release. He had been fully vaccinated and also had gotten a booster shot.

The man is recovering at home, it said.”

Another case was reported in Churchill County and involved an unvaccinated woman in her mid-40s, according to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.

Now at least 30 states have reported having at least one case of Omicron.

In a recent published report, infection disease specialists have stated Omicron is a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 and was first reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24 after it was detected in South Africa. It has since spread to multiple countries, including Canada.

Omicron has a large number of mutations, which could mean the virus acts differently from other variants that are circulating, according to the WHO.

Although it spreads much more rapidly than previous strains, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta explains it’s still too early to know how it compares to the Delta variant in that regard.

Numerous infectious disease specialists have noted, “It will at least get around some of the protection from infection that vaccines provide, but there’s still good protection so far from severe disease and death.”

A common question is how to tell the difference between Omicron and the common cold? Yet, making that distinction is more difficult than it sounds.

As reported by the Mayo Clinic, “The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract – your nose and throat. Someone with a cold may experience a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough and body aches.

COVID-19 is also a respiratory virus, and someone who is infected will experience similar symptoms. In some cases gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea and nausea, can also overlap between the coronavirus and the cold.

The one symptom you can experience with COVID-19 and not with influenza is loss of smell. However, many people with the coronavirus don’t lose their sense of smell and Barrett says it’s not a “useful tool to differentiate between the two.”

With both infections giving off similar effects, self-diagnosing is not a safe option.

When experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms, the only way to know for sure is to get tested.

If you do have symptoms, you can go into the health department in Hawthorne to be tested; otherwise you would need to make a specific appointment.

Some health experts have said that symptoms include night sweats, fatigue, mild muscle aches and a scratchy, dry throat. And while early evidence may indicate the Omicron variant results in more mild symptoms among those with two (and especially three) vaccines, the picture is starkly different for unvaccinated patients.

By now the public is likely very well versed in ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and experts advise more of the same.