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Local health experts provide insight on the COVID-19 Omicron variant

Heath experts said Omicron warrants a close watch.
Credit: FOX61
Coronavirus

HARTFORD, Conn. — As the world waits to learn more about the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, local health experts are urging people not to panic and to remain vigilant.

“I think the most important take-home point is not to panic or to fear right now. Like I said, there have been a lot of Greek letters since Delta," said Dr. Ulysses Wu, Chief Epidemiologist & System Director, Infectious Diseases at Hartford HealthCare.

Even still, heath experts said Omicron warrants a close watch.

“What’s concerning is the high likelihood that this variant, Omicron, is more contagious based off of data from South Africa and how it’s spreading there," said Dr. Syed Hussain, Chief Clinical Officer at Trinity Health of New England.

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Also concerning is that Omicron has a high number of mutations, more than 30 on the spike protein. That protein is the target of the COVID-19 vaccines that prompt an immune response to fight infection.

“Spike protein can have a say in many factors including transmissibility, the proteins itself could evade the immune system as well as evade detection," said Dr. Wu.

RELATED: President Biden: Omicron variant cause for concern, not cause for panic

Currently, work is underway to shed light on the unknowns, including how much the vaccines will hold up against Omicron.

“If science holds true and I do believe this to be true, that even if it is not 100% effective it will be somewhat effective at the very least," said Dr. Wu.

It's also not clear yet whether Omicron causes more severe disease compared with other variants.

“The symptoms preliminary seem to be more mild and seem to be appearing in younger people as well," said Dr. Wu.

RELATED: What do we know about Omicron variant? And why are scientists so worried?

As the world waits on more information, Connecticut health systems stand ready to respond.

“We know what to do. We have learned quite a bit in the last two years managing the pandemic since March of 2019 what works and what doesn’t work," said Dr. Ajay Kumar, Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Hartford HealthCare.

The message to people at home: Keep following public health measures, including masking, hand washing and getting vaccinated or a booster shot.

Angelo Bavaro is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at abavaro@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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