ATLANTA (WJBF) – Georgia’s Department of Public Health says it is closely monitoring the new Omicron COVID-19 variant first detected in Africa, but says there are no reported cases in Georgia at this time.
Emory doctors say if you have symptoms of COVID to get tested immediately, and say the current PCR tests can detect the presence of the Omicron variant.
The state health department says its working with the World Health Organization and federal agencies to better understand the Omicron variant and reduce risk to Georgians.
“This variant appears to be infecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated, but those vaccinated have a mild illness and caution people that most cases have been in young individuals,” says Dr. Carlos Del Rio, Infectious Disease Expert, Emory University. “If you have not been vaccinated. If you have been get your booster.”
But Emory doctors believe Omicron is already in the U.S. given the number of international travelers and direct flights from South Africa.
“What omicron has multiple mutations in 2 sites. One in the spike protein, that is where our treatment, antibodies, and vaccines are directed,” says Dr. Del Rio
“We know that scientists are working very quickly such as this is more transmissible, is disease more severe, how well do our vaccines work and our therapeutics work,” says Dr. Alexander Millman, Chief Medical Officer, Georgia Department of Public Health
The state’s public health commissioner says getting vaccinated will prevent the virus from mutating and stop new variants from emerging.
“Because of the experience we have of responding to COVID the past 2 years, we are prepared in case there is a case in Georgia in the future. We have testing and vaccines,” says Dr. Millman.
But the good news is DPH says don’t cancel your holiday plans just yet.
Emory doctors say the previous Delta variant is still present in more than 80% of counties in the country with a high transmissibility rate. That’s why the DPH is urging Georgians older than 5 to get vaccinated especially with the holidays around the corner, and getting boosters for those older than 18 if they have completed their first series of the vaccine.
Cases of the new COVID-19 variant have been detected in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany and the UK.
Emory doctors say the Omicron variant was first discovered on November 9th in Botswana, and then seen in South Africa 3 days later.
The two cases in Hong Kong were men who had received the Pfizer dose but tested positive for the Omicron variant.