• By Joel Streed

Observing the emergence of omicron variant

November 29, 2021
Mayo Clinic Laboratories researcher checking specimen tubes during COVID-19 research

While there are more questions than answers right now, concern is growing about the emergence of the new COVID-19 strain called omicron.

While no cases of the variant have been confirmed in the U.S., Mayo Clinic is closely monitoring the research and clinical observations that are underway and will use this time to thoroughly evaluate evidence as it becomes available.

Dr. Gregory Poland, and infectious disease specialist and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, says the variant was first identified Nov. 9 in Botswana, and it now has become the dominant variant in South Africa.

"The question is, is this virus ― this variant ― more transmissible? The early data ― this is really early ― suggest that it may be two to six times more transmissible than delta. Well, does that necessarily mean that it's more virulent? Does it have more ability to cause disease? We don't know."

Watch: Dr. Gregory Poland talks about the omicron variant

Journalists: Soundbites are in the downloads at the end of the post: Please courtesy: "Gregory Poland, M.D./Infectious Diseases/Mayo Clinic."

What's concerning, says Dr. Poland, is the genetic difference between the omicron variant and the original strain. He says it's larger than any other variant that has been seen.

So what should you do?

Dr. Poland says to take the precautions that are known to be effective and can protect against current strains:

  • Get your primary COVID-19 vaccination series.
  • Get your COVID-19 booster vaccination when you're eligible.
  • Wear a mask when you're indoors.

He adds that travel is probably not a good idea until the picture becomes clearer.

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Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date

For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

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