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Why does the omicron variant have experts so concerned?

Like the delta variant, omicron appears to be more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There have been several COVID-19 variants at this point, including the delta and lambda variants, so why does omicron have experts so concerned?

For starters, omicron, much like the delta variant, appears to be more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19. 

Let's connect the dots.

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The data is still very limited, but there is concern that it could also cause more re-infections in people who already had the virus. That's because omicron has more mutations than we've seen in other variants.

Researchers in South Africa say they've identified at least 30 changes to the original spike protein.

For context, the delta variant has less than half as many. More mutations mean our current covid vaccines are less specialized to target the variant. Dr. Peter Hotez, an expert with the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, doesn't think omicron is anything to panic about yet. 

“I have not seen strong evidence that it's more transmissible than delta. The UK government says it might be, and it might be,” Dr. Hotez said.

“We had 'beta' out of South Africa. It never really took off. We had 'lambda' out of South America. It never took off. This may not take off. The key is knowing its transmissibility,” Dr. Hotez said. “Worst case scenario, studies show it is much more transmissible than delta and has high immune escape potential, then we have to go to Plan B and start designing boosters, but I think we’re a long way away from that yet.”

The CDC says variants are to be expected because viruses are constantly changing. Experts say your best defense is still getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

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