Tennessee Department of Health issues statement on Omicron COVID-19 variant
The good news: there is no indication that the Omicron variant is more contagious or vaccine-resistant than the Delta variant.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - WVLT News spoke to Tennessee Department of Health officials on how they are preparing to address the new Omicron COVID-19 variant in the state.
Department officials provided a statement on the variant, saying that Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey had been briefed by federal officials on the variant and encouraging Tennesseans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Officials said there are no documented cases of the new variant in Tennessee.
“At the moment it looks like it’s spreading very, very readily, so it looks about as contagious as Delta or maybe even a little more contagious. At the moment it’s creating relatively mild disease. But that could be an artifact. We need to watch that going forward,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Symptoms of the Omicron variant include aches and pains, cough, fatigue, which is not that different than other COVID strains.
According to the World Health Organization, it’s not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta.
Schaffner said the virus is affecting young adults and teenagers in South Africa.
“The thing that concerns us the most is that it has had a series of mutations to this critical part of the virus that we call the spike protein. And these mutations together may help this virus evade, at least in part, the protection that we get from our current vaccines,” said Schaffner.
The widely used COVID-19 PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as the WHO has seen with other variants as well.
Doctors anticipate current vaccines will at least partially protect people against this variant of COVID-19.
Food and Drug Administration officials also released a statement on the Omicron variant, saying they are preparing to monitor the potential impacts of COVID-19 mutations. They also recommended people get vaccinated.
Department officials also said the FDA advisory committee is set to meet Tuesday to discuss the Merck antiviral drug treatment, to COVID-19.
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