Actions

What you need to know about the Omicron variant

Medical experts are sharing key information
Posted at 6:24 PM, Dec 20, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Medical experts are sharing as much as possible about the Omicron variant by showing new video of COVID-19 and its effects on the human body.

"So the virus is carried on air molecules, it moves along so that it gets into the airway of the individual, where it enters the trachea, and is passed to the lungs, where it enters the bronchia into the alveoli," Nebraska Center for Virology's Dr. Peter Angeletti said.

The virus then attaches to epithelial cells in the lining of the alveolar sac, where it attaches and infects the cell.

UNMC's Dr. James Lawler showed a CAT scan of a patient with COVID-19.

The scan highlighted inflamed areas in the lungs that were unable to execute gas exchanges. The inflammation combined with the inability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide across the membranes of the alveoli, the small sacks in human lungs, are a particularly problematic part of COVID-19 and a reason why doctors are having a difficult time oxygenating patients.

For Omicron, there are mutations in the spike that seem to make it more able to strongly bind and gain entry into the cell.

"It also seems to cause more disease more quickly, so the incubation period — the time between when somebody is actually infected and when they start shedding virus and when they develop symptoms — seems to be shorter as well. The combination of those two things means it's doubling time, it's growth rate is well beyond anything we've seen previously," Lawler said.

Experts also showed a diagram of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

"What's coded in this vaccine is the spiked protein. These are very simple vaccines and they are really a breakthrough in science, and that they are only coding for one protein and are highly effective and very simple to make," Angeletti said.

Still — experts want to remind us — the vaccine is just one layer in fighting this deadly virus.

"Each one of these interventions, like vaccines, is a little bit like a slice of Swiss Cheese. They all have holes, they all allow things to get through — when you start to stack slices of Swiss Cheese on top of each other, you get a relatively impermeable barrier," Lawler said.

Barriers which we need to face the next stage.

"This is the most dangerous scenario we have faced, really, since the spring of 2020," Lawler said.

Experts expect to see more variants emerge, so the best thing to do is to get vaccinated, get a booster and wear a mask.

Download our apps today for all of our latest coverage.

Get the latest news and weather delivered straight to your inbox.

Coronavirus Resources and Information

Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tracker