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'There's really not a lot of information yet': Louisville doctors weigh in on omicron variant

Vaccines are still the best protection against the virus, doctors said.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The omicron variant is catching the nation’s attention, but doctors in Louisville say there's still a lot we don't know about it.

“There’s really not a lot of information yet on if it's more transmissible than others,” Dr. Steve Hester, Norton Healthcare’s division president, said. “Is it more severe? What symptoms does it cause that are different? It’s really just that - saying it’s a variant that’s concerning and make folks aware that there are some things that need to be happening.”

It begs the question, why is it so concerning?

Hester explained using a lock and key metaphor. He said the spike proteins on the omicron variant, or the “locks,” have greatly mutated, which means the antibodies and vaccines, or the “keys,” might not work as well.

“And so one of the challenges right now is to see how many changes can happen in the virus before the key no longer fits,” Hester said.

However, Hester and University of Louisville’s Dr. Jason Smith stress it’s too early to tell, and vaccines are still the best way to avoid hospitalization.

“We are still, in our own system, seeing 94% of people that we are taking care of in the hospital or requiring ventilation are unvaccinated,” Smith said. “We now are traveling more and we’ve got a new variant, so please, go out and get your booster, make sure that you’re safe and keep your family safe.”

Both doctors said the hospitals have the resources and staff in place in case there is a surge.

They said more information should be available in the coming weeks.

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