How concerning is the Omicron variant? Experts explain

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — The new variant of the coronavirus, the Omicron variant, has started to cause some concern around the world as more and more countries report cases of the virus.

The variant was discovered in South Africa and in just a few weeks, the World Health Organization already named it as a variant of concern and several countries, including the U.S., blocked travel from some African countries.

The reason Omicron has caused this concern is because of the number of mutations in the strain.

“I think it’s 50 overall and 32 specifically with the spike protein. That’s a worry because the spike protein is the point in which the virus enters the cell, but also the point at which natural immunity and vaccine immunity attack the virus,” said Chief Medical Officer for UMC, Dr. Mike Ragain.

The spike protein mutations mean that vaccines could be ineffective against this variant. But according to local doctors, more mutations doesn’t necessarily mean a more dangerous virus.

“Whether it will be more infectious, more lethal and most importantly, will it evade the immune system or will it even partially evade vaccination? Those are things we are waiting to find out,” said Infectious Disease Physician, Dr. Steven Berk.

According to local doctors, initial reports of the virus say Omicron spreads quickly and suggest that those with Omicron only have mild symptoms. Though these initial reports could change, local doctors do see some benefit to a mild but highly contagious variant.

“Maybe it’s just nature’s way of vaccinating the herd,” said Infectious Disease Doctor, Dr. Dennis Duriex.

Since the full effects of Omicron are unknown, doctors warn folks to be cautious but say it’s not time to panic, yet.

“Wait until we get all the information because this thing may be horrible doomsday or it may turn out to be nothing,” said Dr. Duriex.

Doctors continue to recommend vaccination in the hopes of stopping new variants all together.

“We always wonder what the next variant is going to be — it’s be nice to not have a next variant. I think the only way to get there is to vaccinate,” said Dr. Ragain.

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