Person with omicron COVID-19 variant in Orange County was vaccinated, but did not have booster, officials say

Orange County News

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The omicron COVID-19 variant is in Central North Carolina. The first case was detected in Orange County.

That person is fully vaccinated, but has not received a booster, according to the Orange County Health Department. The department said the person has mild symptoms.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is expecting omicron to cause the greatest surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming months, noting early evidence suggests it’s two to three times as contagious as the delta variant.

“Health experts predict that once omicron is in a community, it will be nearly impossible to contain, making vaccines and boosters essential in protecting people from severe illness,” the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release.

UNC’s infectious disease expert Dr. David Wohl said omicron will soon be the dominant variant.

“This is a very catchy virus, I think it’s gonna spread widely,” Wohl said.

He said the good news is boosters work. People who had delta or those who have had two vaccine doses will likely get mild cases if they catch omicron, but can still infect others.

“Even if it’s just mild you still can infect someone, and it doesn’t take too many links in the chain before you find someone who could get really sick,” Wohl said.

Treatments that worked on the delta variant don’t necessarily work on omicron.

“Unfortunately the ones we use for delta right now will not work against omicron,” Wohl said. “There’s one type, Sotrovimab, pretty short supply, we don’t know if we’re gonna have enough to give people who really need it.”

It’s not just about how many cases of COVID-19 there are in the population, it’s if those cases drive up hospitalizations, something Wohl’s concerned about with people who are not vaccinated.

“The people who don’t have any protection, whether they don’t respond to the vaccine or they’re unvaccinated, those are the people that really are vulnerable,” Wohl said. “A fraction of whom will get really sick, and overwhelm our EDs, overwhelm our ICUs, and overwhelm our health care system.”

It takes more antibodies to prevent infection and serious disease from omicron than from delta. Orange County spokesman Todd McGee said the county’s first case is an important reminder to get a booster shot.

“I think this will hopefully encourage folks to come get the booster who are eligible and have not done so yet,” McGee said. “Booster intake has probably not been as high as we’d like to have seen.”

Wohl said getting a booster is more key now than it ever was. About 2 million North Carolinians have received a booster dose, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services numbers.

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