Pine Belt doctor discusses concerns about new coronavirus variant


LAUREL, Miss. (WHLT) – There are some concerns after a new coronavirus variant was discovered in South Africa.

The United States began restricting travel to at least eight African countries Monday as the reports of the omicron variant popping up in countries around the world emerged. Health officials are studying the variant, but it’s significance for the pandemic is not known at this time.

“It is reported in early reports to be even more contagious that delta, which was incredibly contagious,” said Dr. Mark Horne, former president of the Mississippi State Medical Association. “We don’t know yet how severe it’s going to be. In other words, how severe the cases are going to be is simply too early.”

Doctors said it’s also unclear how the current COVID-19 vaccines will hold up against the variant. They said it’s likely to be less effective due to the many mutations of the virus.

Early evidence suggested hospitalization rates are increasing in South Africa. In Mississippi, hospitals are seeing a nursing shortage.

“It’s a real challenge. We got enough to do what we have to do, but we don’t have extras. We don’t have a lot of extra capacity,” said Horne.

Doctors suggest people get the COVID-19 booster to improve immune response.

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