Iowa doctors share what Iowans need to know about omicron

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Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:28 AM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) - Omicron doesn’t appear to be here in Iowa, but health experts say it’s only a matter of time.

The newest variant has been discussed extensively across the world over the last week, with many health care providers stating that there are a lot of unknowns being worked out in labs.

KCCI spoke with Iowa physicians about what is currently known about the newest variant.

“We’re not seeing severe illness in a lot of vaccinated people,” said Dr. Meghan Schaeffer, an epidemiologist who has worked as a consultant for the Polk County Health Department and school districts throughout the county. “It’s acting similarly to delta.”

Cases in South Africa are providing health experts with information.

The World Health Organization made several observations about omicron, including stating that it’s unclear at this time if there is a difference in symptoms in comparison to other variants or if omicron is more transmissible than others.

The variant is detectable in everyday COVID-19 tests.

“Our PCR tests that our State Hygienic Laboratory and other labs do have signals that show us that this is omicron,” Schaeffer said. “So we can find it faster.”

Iowa’s State Hygienic Lab team is looking for different strains in roughly 300 samples a week, much like other state labs across the country.

The more research done leads to more opportunities to learn about the new variant.

“We will have to learn about whether the virus is sensitive to some of the therapies that we use,” said Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology and of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa. “Some of these monoclonal antibodies that are useful, we have to learn whether they will still work. We will know very shortly.”

Health care providers continue to stress the need for the vaccine.

Calls for the booster shot have gone up. As for people who don’t qualify for the booster shot, like children, doctors say they don’t have to worry.

“If it’s somebody who has just had their first two shots in the last month or two, then they probably have as good a response as somebody after a booster,” Perlman said.

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