Health expert suspects omicron variant may have spread to other Mid-South states

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 11:51 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2021 at 5:49 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The omicron variant of COVID-19 is a reality in the Mid-South.

The omicron variant has reached the Mid-South with Mississippi detecting its first case Monday.

Infection disease physician, Dr. Michael Threlkeld, suspects the variant has already spread to other Mid-South states but it’s not currently the biggest threat.

RELATED | State health commissioner expects latest variant to arrive in Tennessee soon

“It‘s mostly still the delta variant that we’re seeing. We’re not seeing large numbers of cases of the omicron variant in the U.S.,” said Threlkeld.

Health experts are still learning how easily omicron spreads. Early information from South Africa shows signs that it may be more likely to spread than previous strains.

Cases reported so far also seem to be milder, but Threlkeld remains cautiously optimistic.

“We don’t yet know what it’s going to do in an older population of transplant patients or somebody that’s immunosuppressed that may be more susceptible to it. Some of the populations, particularly South Africa, have been in younger individuals,” he said.

The patient who contracted the omicron variant in Mississippi was fully vaccinated and recently traveled from New York. The Mississippi State Health Department says the patient has not been hospitalized.

Threlkeld says getting vaccinated remains the best defense against the virus, though just how well it protects against omicron is still being determined.

“Overwhelmingly the message I want to give people is, get that vaccine because once we’re all vaccinated, we think that that will help prevent the spread of the virus to such a degree that these variants don’t occur,” Threlkeld said. “Otherwise, we may expect to see other variants.”

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