Arkansas Dept of Health

The Arkansas Department of Health in Little Rock (Photo: KATV) Content Exchange

A new COVID-19 variant is causing enough concern that the Biden administration implemented travel restrictions. The administration is restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi starting Monday.

Jennifer Dillaha

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the Arkansas Department of Health Medical Director for Immunizations, said all Arkansans should be concerned about this new variant.

“I think we should all be concerned about this. This variant, the Omicron variant, appears to be very infectious, perhaps more infectious than the Delta variant,” Dillaha said.

Dillaha said she thinks the Omicron variant will eventually overtake the Delta variant in the near future as the dominant strain.

Maria Van Kerkove is the technical lead for COVID-19 at the World Health Organization.

“This variant has a large number of mutations and some of these mutations have some worrying characteristics. Right now, there are many studies that are underway. There’s a lot of work that is ongoing in South Africa and other countries to better characterize the variant itself in terms of transmissibility, severity and any impact on our counter measures like the use of diagnostic therapeutics or vaccines,” Van Kerkove said.

The Arkansas Department of Health said with winter coming, the need to remain protected from illness is even stronger.

“We’re concerned about the spread of the flu and COVID-19 at the same time and of course we would not want the Omicron variant to also begin spreading in Arkansas. For that reason I encourage everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses,” Dillaha said.

Dillaha describes “doing your part” in the fight against COVID-19 as getting fully vaccinated, getting your booster shot if eligible or continuing to social distance and wear a mask if you are not vaccinated.

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