Omicron Variant might be less deadly than Delta; local experts weigh in

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -The omicron variant has been found in nearly one-third of states across the country but North Carolina is not one of them.

East Carolina University’s Chief of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Paul Cook, believes it’s inevitable the omicron variant will make its way to the Tar-Heel state.

“I think what we need to expect is that eventually, we’ll start detecting cases in North Carolina,” Dr. Cook said. “I suspect there are already some here, but we have not detected them yet.”

A harsh prediction from Dr. Cook, but it could soon possibly be reality as more omicron variant cases continue to pop up across the nation.

On Monday, to prevent a case surge, new travel mandates for overseas visitors went into effect. Those traveling internationally are now required to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test and there are travel bans to certain South African Counties.

Dr. Cook isn’t so sure there is a benefit to the ban.

“Unfortunately the horse is out of the barn,” Dr. Cook said. “That’s sort of what we expected when we heard about this about a week ago. It’s not really surprising when you start detecting things, what it means is that this variant has been out there for a while.”

Though there are no omicron cases in North Carolina, Lenoir County Health Department Director, Pamela Brown says her game plan is all about booster shots.

“Not knowing a lot details about this variant, one of the best things we can do to is just prime the immune system against it,” Brown said. “And that means vaccines and boosters.”

Dr. Cook says it could be another week until we know the infectious rate of this variant. But early data shows it’s not as deadly as other mutated variants.

“Coronaviruses are a common cold viruses and they don’t necessarily kill people,” Dr. Cook said. “And that’s to the viruses advantage. The virus isn’t trying to kill people, because then it won’t be active anymore. So, I think that what we may see is that this virus becomes more infectious and less lethal which may be good for the virus and it may be good for society.”

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