Yale Medicine expert weighs in on detection, prevention in regards to omicron variant

Coronavirus

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The omicron variant was detected in the United States for the first time Wednesday, discovered in a person in California who returned from South Africa last Monday and tested positive this Monday.

In Connecticut, COVID numbers are climbing with the positivity rate reaching nearly 6% this week, and UConn is now reporting more than 30 new cases on and off-campus in Storrs over the last two weeks.

So how will we know if the omicron variant is in Connecticut? Through RNA and DNA sequencing, according to a Yale Medicine expert.

“It’s kind of like forecasting a hurricane, it may hit us, or it may wander out to sea… there are millions of people infected, each of them has millions of viruses, so the virus is trying new stuff all the time,” said Dr. Sheldon Campbell, a lab physician at Yale Medicine.

Campbell said scientists have only had the new RNA and DNA sequencing of the omicron variant for about a week, so will it work on the tests that detect whether or not COVID is in your system?

He has a lot of faith in PCR tests, saying that is a more in-depth test that should be able to pick up that variant. But what about the rapid test?

“I am a little worried that the rapid tests won’t perform as well, but we don’t know that yet,” Campbell said.

Will the vaccine prevent the virus? Scientists say it’s still too early to tell, but doctors believe if it doesn’t stop omicron, the vaccine will most likely lessen the symptoms. Current vaccines are also easy to update.

“Pfizer and Moderna are really easy to adapt to the new sequence because all you do is basically plug in the new RNA into the vaccine,” Campbell said.

It is easy to adapt and plugin but very difficult to go through the process of screening it to make sure it works, and there is also the fact that they have to mass-produce it which could take months or up to a year. Meanwhile, scientists are working around the clock with the data they have on the variant.

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