Gallatin County reported its first two cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant on Monday, in two county residents who recently traveled back from South Africa. As we head into the second year of the pandemic, several variants have sprouted up and now the latest, omicron, has made its way to Montana, making it the 46th state with the variant.
“When COVID-19 first came into Montana it kind of followed a very similar pattern,” says Lori Christenson, Health Officer for the Gallatin City-County Health Department. “We did follow our typical process for contact tracing and any close contacts were identified.”
The variant is known to be more transmissible. The message we have been hearing throughout the pandemic remains the same but data is still coming in.
“As we've become more and more used to this pandemic as a society we know that information does change,” said Christenson.
With the holidays in two weeks and people gathering, Christensen offers advice for Christmas and New Years celebrations.
“The best advice I can give to you is stay home when you are sick and seek testing,” she said. “Vaccines are going to remain key when we think about holidays and gatherings, so vaccines really remain key, including the booster.”
Now that we head into the cold and flu season, distinguishing the three is important as these are all very similar.
“COVID or coronavirus, there is that longer period of symptom onset,” says Kallie Kujawa, COVID-19 Incident Command Lead for Bozeman Health.
The difference between the three is symptom onset. COVID-19 symptoms tend to show up two to 14 days after an exposure, whereas the cold you show symptoms one to three days and with the flu, one to four days after exposure.
“With the introduction of omicron, really what we need to do is remain vigilant about our actions,” says Christenson.