By Brandon Moseley
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contract lab has found the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as Omicron in a specimen from an Alabama resident.
ADPH reports that the person with the Omicron variant is a resident of the West Central Public Health District. The individual developed mild symptoms in early December and sought COVID-19 testing. No travel history was reported outside of Alabama.
The Omicron variant has been identified in more than 70 countries, including the U.S. The CDC said the variant has been identified in at least 30 states and Washington, D.C.
At this point, very little is known about the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Almost all of the people currently suffering from COVID-19 have the Delta variant. Scientists are still working to determine how Omicron compares with the Delta variant in terms of transmissibility and disease severity. Early reports from doctors at the center of South Africa’s outbreak suggest patients are presenting with less severe cases, but health officials say it is still too early to know whether the disease would be milder as it spreads among older populations around the world.
Scientists at this point continue trying to ascertain the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against Omicron.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world. Alabamians know what to do to keep each other safe now — get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and get a booster. Together, we can fight this virus and help keep our residents safe.
“We still have more to learn about Omicron, but the most important thing we can do right now is to use the tools we have available to make it as hard as possible for this virus to spread,” Harris said. “In addition to vaccination and boosters, we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate.”
According to ADPH, 16,320 Alabamians have died from COVID-19. 3,027 people in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week. Some 374 Alabamians were hospitalized with complications from COVID-19. Most of Alabama's deaths have come in 2021 rather than in 2020.
Public Health officials continue to stress the importance of Alabamians getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Data as of December 15, 2021, shows that 86% of Alabama's COVID-19 cases and 88% of Alabama's COVID-19 deaths were in unvaccinated Alabamians,” ADPH posted on social media. “Current data shows that fully vaccinated persons who get COVID-19 are much less likely to get severely ill, go to the hospital, or die from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines are working.”
To this point, ADPH has not changed any of its recommendations based on Omicron.
The Department of Public Health is urging the public to take the following steps to protect against COVID-19, including variants like Omicron:
Get vaccinated and if eligible get a booster. To find a vaccine near you, visit vaccines.gov
Wear well-fitting masks in indoor public settings and crowded outdoor settings.
Stay at least 6 feet from other people, especially if you are at a higher risk of getting very sick.
Get tested if you have symptoms, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, have traveled or have been in a setting where you may have been exposed.
Stay home if you are sick.
Wash hands frequently.
Stay away from crowds.
Improve ventilation in your home and workplace.
Take extra care to avoid exposure to the virus if you have underlying risk factors or live with someone who does.
Visit www.alabamapublichealth.gov for more information on COVID-19.
At this point, 824,520 Americans have died in the COVID-19 global pandemic and another 10,204,536 Americans are currently battling the coronavirus. For most of them, symptoms will be relatively mild, but they can still spread the coronavirus to others. Some 15,671 Americans with COVID-19 are presently in serious or critical condition. Globally 5,356,661 deaths have been attributed to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.