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Omicron hits U.S. and likely soon the Valley, state health experts say

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 5:43 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The first COVID-19 cases with the omicron variant have been confirmed in the United States.

Local health officials say it’s only a matter of time until the variant hits the Valley.

“I’m sure we will detect it. I think people should suspect we will detect it,” said Dr. Julia Murphy, State Public Health Veterinarian at Virginia Department of Health.

There’s still a lot of unknowns surrounding omicron, including how severe the infection is, the best treatment options or if people who have already had COVID are vulnerable to it.

However, experts say COVID vaccines will help lessen the effect of infection, anti-inflammation treatments will work for severe infections and standard COVID tests can detect Omicron cases.

“Omicron is unusual in that it has a number of mutations, and so it’s a bit concerning because of that because we’re not exactly sure what that’s going to mean,” Murphy said.

Murphy said health systems are, nevertheless, prepared for variants.

“Given our experience with other variants of SARS-CoV-2 in general, we’ve come a long way in our infrastructure to detect cases and detect variants,” she said.

With the holidays coming up, Murphy said we’ll likely see how omicron spreads after family gatherings.

“I think all the more reason to consider taking extra precautions this holiday season by using those non-pharmaceutical mitigation strategies and getting vaccinated,” Murphy said.

There are ways you can gather for the holidays safely. You can open windows to ventilate the room, wear masks, limit exposure to large groups and host virtual gatherings. Murphy said omicron came about because of extensive virus circulation, same as delta.

“The more we allow the virus to circulate, the more chance we have at more variants being created that might be better at evading our immune systems, our testing and our treatments,” she said.

Murphy said it’s important to reduce the likelihood of getting other illnesses right now, like the flu, so she reminds everyone to get their flu shots.

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