Health officials talk about Omicron Variant in Nebraska

Omicron variant of COVID-19
Omicron variant of COVID-19(WCAX)
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 3:54 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - We are still learning more about the Omicron variant of COVID-19. One thing we do know is it spreads more easily than the Delta variant.

It was first detected in Africa in November. Right now there are seven known cases in Nebraska. On Monday, top health officials got a chance to share what they’ve learned about the Omicron variant.

When a person is vaccinated against COVID-19, their body will produce antibodies in response to the virus. This blocks COVID-19 from infecting the cell. So far, the Omicron variant has more spikes, which makes it easier for the virus to bind to cells and gain entry.

Dr. James Lawler with UNMC said vaccination and getting a booster shot is the top line of defense.

“Everybody who has not been vaccinated yet, please, please go out and get vaccinated,” Dr. Lawler said. “We know that vaccinations reduce severity of illness, and it appears that’s the case with Omicron as well. It’s also true that vaccination that’s recent, and boosting for people who have been fully vaccinated previously, probably reduces transmission of Omicron from person-to-person.”

While vaccines are a first line of defense, doctors said we must take a “swiss cheese approach” by vaccinating, wearing masks, reducing crowds and frequent testing.

Dr. Lawler also said he thinks we’re at significant risk of a large outbreak of Omicron in the coming weeks because of a relatively low percentage of the population being fully vaccinated and boosted, which he said is necessary to prevent transmission. Lawler said it is still too soon to tell if Omicron is more severe than Delta or the other variants.

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