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The Omicron surge may be dying down, but the virus is not gone

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Little Rock, Arkansas — A new variant of omicron, called BA.2 has reached Arkansas.

The new variant stems from omicron which is also known as BA.1. The key difference is that BA.2 already has at least 27 new mutations, which were seen in BA.1.

“It appears to be a little bit more infectious than the current omicron variant,” said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Arkansas’ Chief Medical Officer.

According to health officials, it doesn’t seem any more severe.

“Compared to other viruses, this is really boring. It doesn’t change that much, it is limited in the changes that happen,” said David Ussery, a UAMS researcher.

While studying the past three waves of COVID-19, Ussery found that the virus’ genome stays more stable than those of other viruses like the flu and RSV. So, when another variant does come along, the tools we already have can still save lives.

“In principal, we can design really good vaccines that should help, so that’s the good news,” said Ussery.

The precautions that health officials are taking will come in handy and will protect people the next time we have another possible surge or outbreak.

“When we have a surge, we just need to adapt. It could be that those are the times we want to put our mask back on. We want to resume social distancing when the surge is on, and when it backs off we can go more back to our usual everyday activities,” said Dr. Dillaha.

People who are past due to get a booster shot may have less protection.

People who are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination still have strong protection against severe disease, even from this new variant.

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