PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — Health experts are warning people about the newest COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
So far there are no reports of the virus in the U.S. but doctors say it may be the most aggressive variant yet.
Omicron has been detected in over a dozen countries.
Local pediatrician Dr. Rubina Azam said it’s highly transmissible but not as easy to catch.
“It directly affects the lungs, almost bypassing the nose and throat in most cases,” Azam said. “What that means is you can get a COVID test done and it is going to be negative, but it is going to hit the lungs directly so it is going to lead to a COVID pneumonia.”
Azam said the virus’ latest mutations are stronger and current vaccines may not be as effective.
However, questions are circulating about whether people will have to start getting a specific booster shot just for Omicron.
Dr. Azam said to think of it like the flu shot. Just like the flu, the coronavirus continued to mutate and get stronger so the vaccine will have to change as well.
“Every year the COVID virus is mutating, you have new variants and every year we might need a new COVID vaccine,” Azam said.
Dr. Azam said Omicron’s symptoms are different from past variants.
“So they aren’t having the typical runny nose and sore throat and that little bit of fever in the beginning which can give you the warning signs of ‘oh you may have COVID,’” Azam said.
She said most patients feel weak and have joint pain, others just have pneumonia.
Dr. Azam said getting the vaccine is still the best defense against the virus.
Dr. Azam said it is too early to predict if there will be another surge in the U.S. cases., and recommends taking the precautions already established.