Over the Thanksgiving weekend you may have heard that a new variant of COVID was identified in South Africa. Several nations, including the U.S., moved quickly to curb travel to several countries where this variant was already identified. However, and as expected, by the time we found out, the virus had already travelled. The CDC just confirmed today it’s first “known” case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The person was a traveler returning from South Africa, who arrived back to the U.S. on November 22, was tested on the 29th in San Francisco, and that test confirmed today that it is the Omicron variant.
The bad news is this person was fully vaccinated. That has been a worry all along. As more variants emerge, there is always a chance some variant will mutate so much that the current vaccine will be less effective. More
data and studies are needed to say this is truly the case. So far, we know the Omicron variant has over 30 mutations and several are on the 'spike protein,' which is what our vaccine targets.
Why does this happen?
It is a normal part of the virus evolution cycle. When a virus has more time and opportunity to infect people and replicate, it invariably mutates. That is part of the virus replication process.
How do we stop those mutations?
That’s a tough one! Mass vaccination at a fast pace is one way. But there are a lot of people who are not getting vaccinated, giving the virus the opportunity to mutate.
What can we do to protect ourselves?
GET VACCINATED. No ifs, ands, or buts – no excuses! Here's where you can get vaccinated.
If you are vaccinated, GET A BOOSTER! Boosters rev up your immune system. And even if the new variant is not an exact match to what is circulating here, your body will mount a faster and more robust response to a virus exposure, lowering the chance of illness and potentially avoiding severe illness.
WEAR A MASK. This is a good source control strategy. It lowers the spread of the virus from someone who may be sick or is asymptomatically spreading the virus. Mask up, please!
AVOID ATTENDING UNNECESSARY, LARGE GATHERINGS. Limit holiday gatherings to home, and spread out or keep a social distance if you have to meet in person.
We are still in a pandemic environment and it's our task as Public Health to warn you about disease threats and offer practical solutions to help keep people safe.
May you have a wonderful, healthy and safe holiday!
Veerinder "Vinny" Taneja
Director, Tarrant County Public Health
County Telephone Operator 817-884-1111
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