Omicron variant now detected in Arkansas

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LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (KNWA/KFTA) — The first case of the Omicron variant has now been detected in Arkansas.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health said it was only a matter of time before the variant was detected in Arkansas after it was found in neighboring states. Dr. Dillaha said the variant can spread rapidly.

“The Omicron variant is actually more highly transmissible than the Delta variant and the Delta variant was more highly transmissible than any other variant before it,” Dillaha said.

Dr. Dillaha also noted Omicron might not cause severe illness like Delta, but said it is still a cause for concern.

“It’s important for people to know that just because this variant has milder disease, it doesn’t mean that it’s not harmful,” Dillaha said.

Dr. Robert Hopkins, chief of general internal medicine at UAMS, said Omicron together with Delta could threaten the state’s hospital capacity.

“People have strokes and pneumonia and those kind of things, so we don’t need to add a big surge of influenza or COVID on top of that,” Hopkins said.

Preliminary data shows the two doses plus the booster of the COVID-19 vaccine provides good protection against Omicron, according to Dillaha. However, it’s full effectiveness is not known yet.

Arkansas Department of Heath isn’t releasing where the Omicron case is located, but said it was from community spread and not travel related.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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