Valley health officials bracing for arrival of new COVID-19 variant

Health officials in Fresno County and beyond are warning people to be cautious ahead of the arrival of the Omicron variant.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new COVID-19 variant is quickly spreading around the world.

There are fewer than 100 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, but it reportedly spreads more quickly than previous variants.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says Omicron is probably already here in the U.S. or will be here soon.

State health officials are having a conference call Sunday morning to discuss the best way to move forward in preparation for that new variant to arrive.
Most of the cases are in South Africa, but there are confirmed cases in Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Many countries, including the United States, are restricting travel to and from the South African region.

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Health officials in Fresno County and beyond are warning people to be cautious ahead of the arrival of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

"We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmission and you're already having travel-related cases that they've noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go, essentially all over," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the White House.
Here at home in Central California, health officials are warning people to be cautious.

"Our health care system is still - specifically in the San Joaquin Valley - pretty much in surge mode," said Eric Sergienko, Mariposa County Health Officer.

Hospitals across the Valley are already at full capacity. Once Omicron shows up, they'll likely face even more pressure.

RELATED: US health officials work to answer 3 key questions about the new omicron variant

Experts don't know if the current vaccines will be as effective at preventing contraction of the variant, but urge people to still get vaccinated.

"Even though it may be able to do vaccine escape, vaccines may be effective still at preventing hospitalization or preventing death so being fully vaccinated is still recommended," said Sergienko.

Sergienko also advises getting tested as regularly as every other week, or once a month - regardless of your vaccination status - to ensure you are not an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.

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