Doctor explains early data, risks of omicron variant

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 11:44 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The first case of the omicron COVID variant has made its way to the United States. The case was found in a person traveling from South Africa. That person is now quarantining in California.

“Trust me, we don’t want to talk about a new variant strain more than anybody out in the public, but that’s the reality of the way things are,” Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said.

Yazel is operating on the assumption that the omicron variant is already in our area. He said that assumption will help people be more prepared.

“There’s a little lag time when they do the genotypes and the different strains and stuff like that,” Yazel said.

“When we do some of our routine swabs and we send it to the state lab for just a positive or negative, they take a certain number of those and actually type them all the way out so they can tell exactly what strain there is,” he explained.

Yazel said information about the variant is still limited. Early data shows it could be more infectious than delta, and it might eventually become the dominant strain in the U.S.

He said it doesn’t seem to cause more severe cases. He also said the vaccine seems to be holding up well against omicron.

“I think a game changer will be when or if a variant strain comes along that’s more severe. That’s when things are really going to pose a problem from a public health side of things as far as large-scale changes and how we’re handling it,” Yazel said.

While he said it’s a concern to keep an eye on, it’s not a reason to panic yet.

“I think it’s good to stay informed, but listen to your public health officials,” Yazel said. “As far as when it’s time to be worried or if it’s ever time to be, we’ll let you know.”

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