Prisma Health: Omicron variant ‘likely’ in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – It is highly likely that the new COVID variant is in South Carolina, this is according to an infectious disease physician at Prisma Health.  As of now there is no known cases of the new strain in the country.

Prisma Health Infectious Disease Physician Helmut Albrecht says the recent U.S. travel restrictions can delay the virus but will not prevent it from coming. “No documented cases but it is mathematically impossible that it is not here.”

According to Doctor Albrecht, Omicron has the potential to replace Delta at an alarming rate and that it is highly likely that it has already made its way to South Carolina.

“If it’s not then probably in a matter of days. What the math means, once it’s here at 1% whether doubling every five days it will only take a month for Omicron to be the predominant strain and another five days to be the only strain we will essentially see at least until another one comes around,” said Doctor Albrecht. 

Right now there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to the new variant. 

“We don’t know how severe a disease it causes, how lethal it is, we also don’t know how well the protection afforded by the medication such as antibody cocktails, previous infections, or vaccines,” said Doctor Albrecht. He adds it’s too early to tell if vaccines need to be modified for Omicron. “We will have the answer within days but there will be less protection but it will be significantly more than not having protection.”

Doctor Albrecht says vaccinations and boosters are still the best way to fight against the virus. He says concern is understandable but panic is not necessary and people should know health experts are not surprised by new variants.

“There will be others and clearly each one of them is a little better of infecting unprotected people,” said Doctor Albrecht. 

This christmas Doctor Albrecht recommends social distancing and wearing masks and being extremely careful around unvaccinated people.


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