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UAB epidemiologist believes omicron variant may be 'less severe'

A UAB epidemiologist said, however, omicron may spread more rapidly than delta variant.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The omicron variant has not been detected in Alabama yet. However, scientists and doctors say there still isn’t enough to know about this new mutation. It’s now the fifth variant of concern.

FOX54's Keneisha Deas spoke with an Alabama epidemiologist on the research they do have so far.

“So here’s what we think. We think the spread is more rapidly than Delta. This is based on the fact that South Africa is seeing a huge surge in cases of COVID, despite the fact that they already battled a Delta wave, almost at the same time that Alabama battled a Delta wave,” said UAB School of Public Health Epidemiology Professor Dr. Suzanne Judd, Ph.D.

Judd said while omicron may spread more rapidly than delta, people may get less sick.

“We think it’s possible it may be less virulent, which just means less severe. So less likely to put people into the hospital, but still spreading quite rapidly,” said Judd.

She also says in South Africa, pediatric cases are rising, specifically children under the age of five. 

“Again, we don’t know what that means. It could be because this is so rapidly spreading. It could be because of the time of the year. There are many factors. It could be because there is something going on,” said Judd.

Here’s what this means for us in Alabama: “Omicron, Delta, whatever the letter that we’re calling it, it’s still COVID. And what has COVID done to Alabama? Well last year, for the first time in recorded history. There were more deaths than births in the state of Alabama. We’re on pace for the exact same thing to happen in 2021,” added Judd.

Judd says nothing has changed in the fight against COVID.

“Vaccination’s your best line of strategy to prevent severe infection with Coronavirus. Masking is a really good way to prevent the spread when you’re out in public spaces to protect yourself and those around you. Social distancing by limiting the gathering or space that you’re in. That also helps to decrease your risk.”

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