Omicron appears to 'outcompete' delta What’s that mean to Alamogordo?

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Mapping past variant spread…

In this world of Covid-19 across the globe is the new scare. What does it mean to folks living in Alamogordo?

In South Africa sudden burst of cases showed up, among university students around the city of Pretoria. Scientists thought that the delta variant was probably causing the spike. But to be sure, they decided to sequence the genome of a virus from one of the cases.

It wasn't delta at all.

"All of a sudden, there's this creature with all these mutations — and, I mean a lot of mutations," says Dr. Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Known as omicron, the new variant has put the globe on alert. Since Nov. 24, when it was first reported to the World Health Organization, health officials have now detected omicron in more than a dozen countries across at least five continents. The variant poses a "very high" risk, the WHO said on Monday.

If omicron is more transmissible, that would be quite remarkable, says the University of Massachusetts' Luban.

"Everyone is afraid that omicron will be significantly more transmissible than delta. Upon first impression, it looks like it could be," he says. "But that could be totally wrong. Right now, nobody knows. The problem is that our data is very limited."

At the moment, the only data scientists have to estimate omicron's transmissibility comes largely from the cluster of cases at a university in Pretoria. The rapid rise in cases there could be due, in part, to a superspreading event.

Research so far also suggests that people can boost their protection — against any variant — by having three exposures to the virus. So that means either three doses of the vaccine or two doses after a natural infection.

That seems to broaden your defenses, says Shi, the virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch. "After the third dose of the vaccine, our antibody profile inside our body becomes more capable of blocking the variants," he says. "Our bodies create different antibodies that are much more able to push back on the variants."

Bottom line — too soon to know if this will become a dominant strain and if it does, will it be more problematic in terms of vaccine protection,” Susan Weiss, a virologist who helps lead the University of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus research center, wrote in an email, adding that there is “NO evidence that it will cause worse disease.”

So what’s the bottom line locally? Get the shots, wash hands often but participate, shop, work, live. Don’t let fear paralyze us but take precautions. We can live through this and other variations that may arise if we just practice proper hygiene and good public health. Cover if coughing, wash hands if you feel ill stay out of the public. Be diligent but live life.

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