CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – So far, there are no detected cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Tri-State or the U.S., but public health officials are researching the variant diligently and they’re still unsure of its significance in this pandemic.
“With this specific Omicron variant, it has a lot of brand new mutations that we have no idea it will make the virus more infectious or more deadly, we have no idea yet. There’s still a lot of work to do,” said Dr. Ivan Martinez, an Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology at WVU.
Health experts say we don’t need to be concerned about the new omicron variant just yet, but we do need to be cautious.
“We definitely know that this variant has more mutations where a lot of the antibodies bind. Where almost doubled the Delta,” said Dr. Martinez.
The Omicron variant was first detected in Africa and has now made its way to European countries. Health officials are unsure of the vaccine’s effectiveness against this variant right now, but say it’s still your best form of protection.
“So the best way for everybody to stay safe, go ahead and get that vaccine if you haven’t gotten it. If it is your turn to get the booster dose, meaning if you’re over the age of 18 and it has been more than six months with your Pfizer or Moderna or more than two months since your Johnson and Johnson, that is still our best defense against any type of variant,” said Dr. Sherri Young, the Health Officer of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department.
Aside from the new variant, local leaders are concerned with overall coronavirus cases.
“Our big concern is, not only do we have a new variant that is so much different from the original, but the fact that people are traveling and it’s the holidays,” said Dr. Young.
Experts say we need to be vigilant and not let our guards down just yet.
“This virus is not going to go. It’s going to stay with us and we just need to learn how to live with it,” added Dr. Martinez.
The variant is still new, so health leaders weren’t able to say specific differences in symptoms, but add if you do feel sick to go out and get a COVID test.