White House infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the new variant of COVID-19 Omicron could already be present in the United States.
Fauci was asked on NBC if he thinks whether the variant was already in the United States.
Fauci said, “It wouldn’t surprise me. We have not detected it yet. But when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”
Fauci went on to say that the Omicron variant has “a bunch of mutations” that indicate it could bypass the current protection provided by vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and convalescent plasma from previously infected people.
However, researchers haven’t determined whether this variant is more transmittable than previous variants. Researchers are also assessing the efficacy of existing vaccines against the new strain.
Fauci also added that “It is conceivable that the vaccines we have may well be able to contain this, and then this won’t be as serious as some people are surmising it might be.”
The World Health Organization received the very first report of the variant on Wednesday.
On Friday, WHO labeled it as a “variant of concern.” The White House has already restricted travel from South Africa and seven other countries where the variant has been found in numbers. As said by Fauci, travel restrictions were imposed to give researchers more time to study and understand the Omicron variant before it starts spreading in the country.
The new variant, as researchers believe, has 32 mutations in its spike protein, which is almost double the number found in the previous variant. The spike proteins determine a virus’s ability to attach to and replicate within human cells.
As a consequence of it, the Omicron variant maybe 500% more infectious than the previous variant, said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist.