RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Delta is still the dominant COVID-19 variant in the U.S.

The omicron variant is in the U.S. and North Carolina and will likely spread much further.

They are not the same which increases the possibility of catching them back-to-back.

“It’s a completely different virus than delta and so it wouldn’t surprise me that a person that had had delta could then subsequently get infected with omicron,” said Dr. Paul Cook, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine

Since omicron is still relatively new, scientists are also trying to determine an even more potential worrisome scenario.

“We’re still seeing how quickly people can go from delta to omicron. We don’t know if you could actually get co-infected at the same time or if there is some little protection. We don’t know yet” said Dr. Erica Pettigrew, UNC Health family practitioner and medical director of the Orange County Health Department.

Doctors say the additional risks are another reason to get vaccinated and boosted.

Natural immunity from a previous infection could give you very little protection.

Cook said “if you’ve had measles, you’re never going to get measles again, if you’ve had mumps same thing. It’s not the same. I think it’s probably more analogous to having a cold. If you had a cold you’ll probably get a cold again.”

Being vaccinated and masking goes beyond keeping you and others out of the hospital.

The financial repercussions can be devastating.

“It’s not just about us as an individual, it’s about us and who we’re interacting with at work, at home, at church, wherever we are,” Pettigrew said.

Cook recalled a similar conversation he recently had with a vaccinated patient who questioned getting a booster.

“They were a little reluctant to get the booster. I said I think you should get the booster and I said the reason is you’ll probably have to miss work if you get sick and if you get the booster you’re probably less likely to get sick and then miss work,” Cook said.

Pre-omicron, the current surge of COVID patients is also worrisome heading into Christmas.

“Whether or not omicron comes, whether or not omicron is the threat we’re worried it might be we have to deal with the threat we have now which is delta,” said Pettigrew.