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Local health experts talk Omicron, concern that comes with latest COVID variant

Medical researchers have their eye on a new COVID-19 variant.

Dr. Emil Lesho with Rochester Regional Health says the Omicron variant has been reported in 13 countries and is likely in the United States. It was first detected in South Africa. Dr. Lesho says although omicron was first found in South Africa, that doesn’t mean it originated there.

Dr. Lesho says testing for the new variant is difficult. “To detect this variant requires whole genome sequencing. Most hospital labs in the United States can’t do that technology,” he said. Although many of the changes in this variant could potentially make current vaccines less effective against it, Dr. Lesho says it could be four weeks before we know for sure.

His advice is to get a first dose if you don’t have one and a booster if you do.

The US has already imposed travel restrictions on people entering from South Africa. Omicron has been labelled a variant of consequence, one level below the most serious rating.