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UAB doctors monitoring Omicron variant

Dr. Suzanne Judd, Professor and Epidemiologist at UAB’s School of Public Health, says since the...
Dr. Suzanne Judd, Professor and Epidemiologist at UAB’s School of Public Health, says since the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa, cases have been rising fast.(CNN)
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 4:11 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - As doctors scramble to learn more about the Omicron variant, they say information coming out of South Africa is offering clues to the possible impact here in Alabama.

Dr. Suzanne Judd, Professor and Epidemiologist at UAB’s School of Public Health, says since the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa, cases have been rising fast. That surge comes after the country saw a Delta wave around the same time as Alabama, indicating the variant is more contagious.

“Another thing we’re hearing out of South Africa is that pediatric hospitalizations are rising, specifically children under 5,” explained Dr. Judd. “We don’t know what that means. This could be because it is so rapidly spreading. It could be because the time of year. There could be many factors.”

Dr. Judd says in most patients Omicron does not appear to lead to more severe symptoms.

“Even if Omicron is a little bit more safe, less likely to put you in the hospital. That doesn’t mean it will stay that way,” said Dr. Judd, who believes Omicron is likely already in Alabama.

“We don’t do as much genotyping in Alabama as other states, so it may take us awhile to find Omicron,” explained Dr. Judd.

According to doctors, getting vaccinated, wearing a face mask in public spaces, and social distancing are still the best ways to protect yourself.

“It’s still COVID, and what has COVID done to Alabama? Last year for the first time in reported history there were more deaths than births in the state of Alabama,” continued Dr. Judd.  “We’re on pace for the exact thing to happen in 2021.”

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