Lots of omicron Thursday news – here’s what it means in Austin-Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) – If you’ve been keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday will provide plenty of reading material.

Between the Biden administration announced its pandemic plan Entering winter and CDC announces a second case of omicron was found in the US – there’s a lot to update this week.

What does all of that mean for you here in Austin-Travis County? We have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about this newly discovered variant in South Africa that is rapidly spreading worldwide.

Is the omicron variation in Austin-Travis County?

As of December 2, the omicron variant has yet to be officially detected in Austin-Travis County, but Austin Public Health says experimental data is often lagging and we should assume that variation is here.

This variant has yet to be detected in Texas as of Thursday, but the Department of Health and Human Services told KXAN they are expanding their sequencing efforts to try and detect any cases locally.

There have been two cases of omicrons reported in the United States to date: one in California and one in Minnesota.

According to the CDC, both people who tested positive have mild symptoms and are in isolation. One had just returned from South Africa, the other had attended a convention in New York City.

“Scientists around the world are now working to quickly determine what impact this variation will have on all of us,” said Dr. know this week.

What is mutation response?

“This virus has mutations, some have reported 43. I heard a report from someone at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) that there could be as many as 50,” explains Walkes.

Mutations are not usually discussed with delta variants, or earlier variants. So why are we hearing about it now?

According to the CDC, a mutation is “a single change” in the genetic code of a virus. A variant, then, is a genetic code that contains one or more mutations.

The Texas Medical Association broke it down this way for us: think of it as a phone game.

The phrase you started with is the original virus. If someone makes a mistake and says a word wrong, it’s like a surge. A word may change the meaning of a phrase, it may not – same as mutations.

When you have multiple word changes and they change sentences (or viruses in this example), that’s a variation.

Austin Public Health tells us omicron mutations are of interest because some of the mutations involve spike proteins. That means they can attach themselves to our cells more easily and thus spread more easily.

So… will the vaccine work against omicrons?

The CDC says there hasn’t been enough research to determine whether the vaccine’s effectiveness against omicrons differs from that of its predecessors.

Still, the CDC and local health leaders say getting vaccinated is your best defense against COVID-19 and getting very sick or dying from it.

“We have reported that the cases seen in South Africa are mild, so we assume there will be some level of protection from the vaccines that we have,” said Walkes. She re-emphasizes the importance of vaccinations and booster shots if you qualify.

You can find vaccines on City of Austin Website.

Can I get an omicron test?

As is the case with the delta variant, the test you will get at your pharmacy or doctor’s office will only tell you if you have COVID-19, it will not tell you if you have the variant. any particular.

The process of identifying variation is called sequence testing. It’s expensive and supplies are limited so it’s only done under certain circumstances. The data is then projected onto the community to estimate the prevalence of variations (think of it like a survey).

The State of Texas is responsible for the sequence checks for Austin-Travis County.

While the test won’t tell you which variant you have, health leaders say you should get tested for COVID-19 if you’ve been exposed or experience symptoms so it can limit the spread of COVID- 19 for others.

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“The bottom line is if you’re sick, get tested, stay home and contact your healthcare provider for advice on whether you’re eligible for treatment,” says Walkes. speak.

What makes this a ‘variable of interest?’

Dr Desmar Walkes describes this variant as being listed as a “worrying variant” because “it appears to be spreading faster.” She said the actual transmission capacity of the new variant is yet to be determined.

The CDC classifies variations on its website this way:

Scientists track all variations but can categorize some as variations being monitored, variations of interest, variations of concern and variations of high consequence. Some variants spread more easily and quickly than others, which could lead to more COVID-19 cases. An increase in cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, leading to more hospitalizations and more likely deaths.

These classifications are based on how easily the variant spreads, the severity of symptoms, how the variant responds to treatments, and how the vaccine protects against the variant.

How do I protect myself?

Right now, the best methods against delta variation are also what medical leaders are recommending for omicron variation. Vaccinations, wearing a mask in a private space in your home with people you don’t know, testing when sick, and other best practices.

“Those are still the measures we’ve been using so far to protect ourselves,” says Walkes.

If you have unanswered questions about omicron variation, or COVID-19 in general, email Grace Reader digital reporter at grace.reader@kxan.com.

https://www.kxan.com/news/coronavirus/lots-of-news-about-omicron-thursday-heres-what-it-means-in-austin-travis-county/ Lots of omicron Thursday news – here’s what it means in Austin-Travis County


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