Omicron COVID variant not cause for panic as of now; health officials say continue to get vaccinated

Doctors would be surprised if variant is not yet in U.S.
Posted at 6:40 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 19:55:25-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The omicron variant of COVID-19 was first detected in South Africa. Health officials say there's not much information about the strain just yet, but they do know it has more mutations.

"You’re going to have to wait to see. 'Are we having more vaccinated people infected, are we having increased case counts?' that type of thing. Just because there’s mutations doesn’t mean it's a more safe virus or devastating virus, it’s just a different virus," Dr. David Quimby, CHI infectious disease expert, said.

More information should be gathered in about a week on the strain. Some reports show it's highly transmissible. Local health officials say if it is, and if it does cause more severe illness, it will be a cause of concern.

No confirmed case of the virus has been identified in the United States, but local health officials say they're pretty certain it's already here and it would be surprising if it wasn't.

RELATED: Canada's first 2 cases of omicron COVID-19 variant detected in Ontario

Some doctors say what we should be focusing on is the delta variant, which has been seen often in Nebraska.

"The delta variant clearly changed the game so the delta variant is much more transmissible than previous variants or the wild type strain we saw and so that's the major wild card we’ve been dealt here most recently," said Dr. Mark Rupp, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UNMC.

Doctors remind everyone the vaccine will protect against this strain and it's safe and effective. While the current vaccine's efficacy against omicron is unknown, they say it's still the best way to stay safe.

"I'm rounding on a floor with a lot of COVID patients and the common theme is patients who have very severe disease, who are critically ill and on a ventilator, on echo machines, who have bad lung disease, are all patients who have not gotten the vaccine," said Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at CHI Health Creighton.

Watch the Q&A with Dr. Quimby and Dr. Vivekanandan: CHI infectious disease physicians answer questions about the new COVID-19 omicron variant

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