With a new COVID-19 variant currently being monitored by the World Health Organization, we wanted to take this time to answer some of your questions about the new strain, Omicron XE—and show you why this is the best possible time to put your at-home COVID testing strategy into place.
What is Omicron XE?
Omicron XE is a “recombinant” strain of Omicron, which means that it’s essentially a hybrid of two different Omicron strains. These kinds of hybrids tend to happen as viruses mutate and evolve, so this new hybrid strain is nothing out of the ordinary for COVID-19.
First detected back in January, the biggest outbreak of Omicron XE is currently occurring in the United Kingdom. A handful of cases have been reported outside of the U.K.—including confirmed cases in India and Hong Kong—but there are currently not any confirmed outbreaks of Omicron XE in the United States.
While there were initial concerns and reports that the XE strain may be even more contagious than the current dominant Omicron strain (Omicron BA.2), the World Health Organization has stressed that it is still too early for any real conclusions to be drawn about the transmissibility of Omicron XE. That means as of today, you should continue to be cautious, but you don’t need to be particularly worried about this new mutation of Omicron.
What are the symptoms of Omicron XE?
Since Omicron XE is a recombinant strain of Omicron, it makes sense that the symptoms of Omicron XE appear to be very similar to the symptoms of Omicron! That means you should be on the lookout for symptoms similar to a common cold or flu, such as congestion, sore throat, cough, fever, fatigue, as well as possible loss of taste or smell—the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19.
How should I prepare for this new COVID variant?
After the past few years, you’re probably already in the habit of masking and social distancing to your level of comfort. However, with an unpredictable new strain on the World Health Organization’s radar, this is a good time to make sure you’re prepared for the possibility of a more serious future outbreak.
Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from the life-threatening risks of COVID-19—so if you have not received a vaccination or booster shot, this is a good time to get your shots up to date.
If you’ve already received one booster shot and are wondering if you’ll need another, the CDC is currently recommending a second booster for those older than 50, as well as certain immunocompromised people. If you’re unsure if you fall into the immunocompromised category, you should talk to your doctor about a second booster shot.
In addition to making sure that you’ve received the maximum protection through vaccination, you should also take measures to put an at-home testing strategy into place, ASAP. Having a COVID-19 self-testing kit on-hand at all times—such as an at-home PCR test or an at-home rapid antigen test—can give you peace of mind, especially if you suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID.
The good news is, both kinds of at-home COVID tests are affordable and available right now through Boomerang. Our self-tests make it easy to check for COVID in the comfort of your own home, with just a minimally invasive gentle nasal swab.
If you don’t suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID, but would like to make sure you aren’t carrying the virus before visiting your friends, family, or co-workers, we recommend checking out our at-home rapid antigen tests.
At-home rapid antigen tests give you results in just 15-30 minutes, and while they are not as accurate as PCR tests (considered the “gold standard” of COVID tests), they are more affordable and convenient—while still accurate enough that they’re recommended by doctors in many situations. Keeping at least one at-home rapid antigen test kit in your house means the latest strain doesn’t have to put your life on hold.
If you do suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID, or if you’re showing symptoms such as congestion or coughing, we strongly recommend ordering our at-home PCR test kit.
Available at three different price points to fit your needs, these tests must be sent out to one of our CLIA-approved labs for processing—but you’ll have accurate results in 24-48 hours, without even having to wait in line at the doctor’s office.
Overall, the new Omicron XE strain does not currently seem like it should be a major cause of concern for most Americans—but it never hurts to be prepared by having an at-home COVID self-testing kit ready to help protect you and your community.