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WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT EMERGING VARIANTS: OMICRON

Mesa County is prepared and ready should the Omicron variant be identified in our community. Sequencing for this variant is occurring through the State lab as well as the contracted lab used by MCPH at the community testing site at the fairgrounds. As this new variant emerges, local public health urges proven prevention measures to slow the spread. 

Because sequencing for these variant types of illness can take several (up to 10) days it’s likely the virus strain will have the opportunity to spread significantly before it’s detected. Every new infection is a chance for mutation. Waiting for the first case to emerge in our local community will be too late to stay ahead of transmission.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM DELTA

Mesa County was the first location in Colorado where the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant was detected. At the time, it was a variant of interest with little known about the transmissibility of the virus.  We now know that this mutation is up to four times as contagious. We do not yet know the exact transmissibility of the latest variant (Omicron). We do know what it takes to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Prevention measures such as wearing a mask in public indoor settings, washing your hands frequently, physically distancing from others, and staying home from work, childcare and school if you are not feeling well are effective against this and other emerging variants. The CDC also recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. CDC encourages a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for those who are eligible.

Mesa County Public Health recommends extra precautions related to time spent outside Mesa County and offers suggestions for increased protection when you return home from a trip. “Be aware of where you are going and what you could bring back,” Jeff Kuhr, Director of Public Health for Mesa County, said.  “The individuals first identified to have the Delta variant strain in Mesa County had no travel history, but they got it from somewhere. Know the risk and the reality that If you choose to travel you could be infected and bring it back home,” Kuhr added.

If you have travel plans MCPH recommends prevention strategies on your trip. When you return, monitor yourself for symptoms.  If possible, get tested 5 days after returning home even if you have no symptoms. If you do experience symptoms of COVID-19 get tested immediately and stay away from others.

WHAT WE KNOW

When new and emerging information is first released it’s natural to have questions.  Mesa County Public Health will share information as we get it with our community.  As we all exercise patience and await additional details about the worldwide and national research underway on this variant, we can be proactive and take individual action to curb excessive transmission.

ABOUT OMICRON

  • On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and has named it Omicron.
  • South Africa first reported this variant, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it originated there.
  • Mutations and emerging variants are expected as viruses constantly change.
  • Omicron has dozens of new mutations on the virus’s spike protein, which is the mechanism the virus uses to invade healthy cells.  
  • World health leaders haven’t yet determined the severity of illness associated with this strain but based on what they’re seeing in areas where it has been identified, it’s believed to be more contagious.

LET’S END THIS

Our local team of epidemiologists, case investigators, emergency preparedness experts, registered nurses, data analysts, and public health experts are ready and have been responding since before the first COVID-19 case was identified in Mesa County on March 14, 2020. We have the experience and expertise to respond, but we need your help.

We must work as a community to protect ourselves, our economy, and our loved ones. MCPH remains committed to keeping you informed and providing you guidance to protect yourself and others. 

We’ll keep you informed, we ask you to be patient and proactive to #EndCOVID in Mesa County. Seek out information from trusted sources to make informed choices about COVID-19. For more information, visit health.mesacounty.us.

Learn more about how the state health department is working to identify this and other variants of interest or concern here.