North Dakota health officials discuss omicron variant

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 2:48 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Since being discovered just less than a week ago, the omicron variant has been discovered in more than 20 countries, including the United States. On Wednesday, the North Dakota Department of Health held a briefing on this variant and what it means for the state.

There are many different variants of COVID-19, but the most notable are the ones that are considered “variants of concern.” This week, the CDC announced omicron as a variant of concern, joining delta as a strain that health departments will have to monitor closely.

People may not have heard much about other variants such as lambda, gamma, and mu, so what makes omicron so noteworthy?

“The numerous mutations that have been found on its spike protein,” said Kirby Kruger, NDDOH disease control and forensic pathology chief.

Spike proteins on the virus help it enter human cells. This variant has at least 32 mutations compared to 9 from delta.

“To say the least, we have a lot to learn about this variant. It is just newly emerged,” said Kruger.

While this is a concern, Kruger says this doesn’t change current mitigation practices.

“The things that we have been doing all along to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus are still important today and still are going to help us to reduce the spread of omicron if omicron becomes present in our area,” said Kruger.

A case of the omicron variant was detected in the United States on Wednesday. Federal officials said it was only a matter of time.

“We cannot predict the future, but we can be prepared for it, and we have been doing exactly that,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Centers for Disease Control director.

For the North Dakota Department of Health, they say they are taking a wait-and-see approach, as it is too soon to know how omicron would affect North Dakota and its health care services.

Kruger added that vaccination and booster shots are still important to protect people from the virus.

Vaccine manufactures are still researching their effectiveness against the new variant.

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