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UW Health specialist on next steps in handling Omicron variant

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 11:21 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:08 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new COVID variant of concern has been named: Omicron. Dr. Dan Shirley with UW Health says there are a few next steps in dealing with this variant to focus on in the weeks to come.

“The first step, that is still kind of ongoing, is to one: develop a way so everyone knows to look for this variant,” explained Dr. Shirley, an Infectious Disease Physician.

Testing for Omicron is already happening globally, including across the United States and in Wisconsin.

“This one was found in South Africa first and that really is mostly because they actually look for variants and have a system where they can find these, by sequencing different types of SARS-COV-2 genomes,” explained Dr. Shirley.

Dr. Shirley said the next step is for scientists to determine how effective current COVID-19 vaccines are in protecting people against Omicron, further explaining that “the last step is to see if it acts any different in human disease. So is it more transmissible between humans? Does it cause a more severe disease?”

He’s hopeful we’ll have answers to all those questions within a week or two. He encourages people to continue taking prevention measures, like getting booster doses, wearing masks, staying home when sick and distancing and getting tested if you are having symptoms of COVID-19.

“The important things to know are that the test generally speaking for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID still will detect this,” said Dr. Shirley.

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