As omicron variant spreads, infectious disease expert advises taking precautions

Omicron variant of COVID-19 detected in 36 states, including Florida

Health experts believe that taking precautions can help prevent the omicron variant from spreading and infecting crowds of people who are out shopping.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading, and infectious disease experts say it won’t be long before it’s detected in the Jacksonville area.

Dr. Mohammed Reza, an infectious disease expert, said the omicron variant is infecting people at higher rates, and you need to be ready.

“This is not the time to panic,” Reza said. “This is time to prepare.”

He said by early January, omicron could be the more common variant. It’s been detected in 36 states, including Florida.

“When we test if you have an infection or not, it’s a very small snippet of those several 1,000 base pairs,” Reza said. “For us to even determine that if this is omicron or delta or alpha, you have to sequence the entire 32,000-plus base pairs, because that allows you to read the entire virus that’s causing that infection. We do that sporadically, called random sampling through our communities and through the country.”

Reza said models show the variant’s doubling time is faster than the delta variant, meaning more people are being infected.

“So even though we may have not diagnosed this variant in our community, it’s very likely it’s circulating because of how common this variant has been seen across our country at this point,” Reza said.

Reza said models show omicron is more contagious than the delta variant. We don’t know if it causes a more severe illness, or how it will impact older or immunocompromised people. It’s also a challenge if people don’t get tested when feeling sick.

Reza said we need to prepare now before the next possible wave, which he said isn’t far away. When it comes to vaccine defense, Reza said the preliminary data shows Pfizer and Moderna give some protection – not as much protection as it does with the delta or alpha variants.

“But the good thing out of all of this, that people that were boosted after receiving two doses, did see an increase in protection against symptomatic infection,” Reza said.

He said you can protect yourself by getting the booster, wearing your mask, and keep using sanitizer.

Reza said even though omicron hasn’t been detected in Jacksonville yet, we should be taking precautions.


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