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Regional News

Northwest scientists among those sequencing for omicron variant

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Screenshot from Washington State Hospital Association
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The new omicron variant has added a new layer of uncertainty to the Covid pandemic. Washington scientists are among those quickly trying to learn more about it and its potential effects.When Dr. Seth Cohen from the University of Washington Medical Center considers a new variant of the coronavirus, he asks several questions.
 
“How effective are current vaccines or natural immunity from other variants against omicron? So, if you’re vaccinated, how likely is it that you could get infected or if you have recovered from infection from a prior variant, how likely is it that you could become re-infected? We don’t know yet whether there has been a change in efficacy of the vaccines," he said.
 
Nor, he says, do scientists know for sure how transmissible it is or how sick it makes the people it infects.
 
Dr. Alex Greninger from the University of Washington School of Medicine says he and colleagues in Seattle are hurriedly screening Covid test results from Washington to crosscheck whether any of them contain the omicron strain.
 
“We have sort of the best eyes out there when it comes to looking for these variants and reporting on them, so as soon as omicron is here, we’ll be one of the first to pick it up," he said.
 
He says they may know within a few days whether someone in Washington has the omicron strain. If not, he believes it’s only a matter of time.
 
Greninger and Cohen spoke Monday during a Washington State Hospital Association briefing.