DHEC confirms first 3 cases of Omicron variant in South Carolina

State News

SPARTANBURG CO., SC (WSPA) – The Omicron variant has been confirmed in South Carolina. On Wednesday, health departments, medical institutions and hospitals held virtual meetings to discuss the impact.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed the first three cases. They say those cases are in the Lowcountry.

The Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC, identified the cases through genetic sequencing; running more tests on positive samples.

During a virtual news conference, DHEC’s Dr. Brannon Traxler said all three individuals were vaccinated, but hadn’t gotten their booster shot.

“The little bit of evidence there is, and data, does suggest that being fully vaccinated may not be as protective against Omicron as it was against Delta or other previous strains,” said Dr. Traxler.

Dr. Helmut Albrecht, with Prisma Health, said the best thing to do is to get your booster shot.

“Even now if you get the booster before Christmas, you will have a significant increase in your protection,” said Dr. Albrecht.

Dr. Albrecht said everyone should get their shots, including those who have been relying on already having had COVID-19 as protection.

“This virus has such different mutations, that really prior infection seems to do very little and give very little protection. Which I actually think is disturbing,” said Dr. Albrecht.

Both doctors spoke about the unknowns with the Omicron variant. Dr. Traxler said a big concern is all of the unanswered questions.

“How severe of an illness it causes, which we know can certainly have an impact when it comes to our hospitals and their capacities, how quickly and easily its spread,” said Dr. Traxler.

She said the data and evidence for the Omicron variant is still very limited.

Dr. Albrecht said this is only the beginning of Omicron variant cases, but the medical field will keep preparing.

“There’s nothing medically different to do, the medical response will be relatively the same. The public health approach changes a little bit as we’re preparing for a surge,” said Dr. Albrecht.

He said as you spend time with loved ones this holiday season, your level of precaution needs to increase. He said it’s too soon to tell the overall impact of this new variant, but it can still be deadly.

Doctors said the best advice is to get your vaccine and booster shot, wear a mask and social distance.

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