UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – The World Health Organization (WHO) called the Omicron strain a variant of concern, and as it makes its way to the U.S. we spoke with Utica College Professor of Biology Lawrence Aaronson expert about what we know so far about this new variant.

“Unfortunately, data aren’t complete yet because it was just characterized last week and so we don’t know if it evades vaccines, we don’t know if it spreads faster or if it causes more severe disease. That’s why its an area of concern,” said Aaronson.

Aaronson explains that right now we have to be concerned about this variant being more severe, and evading the effects of current vaccines. As of right now, it is too early to tell if our current vaccines will protect us.

“They’re concerned about this particular Omicron variant  because it has a multitude of mutations in the genes, but that doesn’t mean that it will be any worse or better than any of the other variants. This is evolution in action,” said Aaronson.

Because of the unknowns right now, what can we do to protect ourselves? Aaronson says that vigilance is our best defense.”

“Continue to stay masked, get your vaccines if you haven’t, social distance if it’s possible and that’s going to keep us safe right now,” Aaronson added.

Looking to the future, Aaronson tells us that COVID-19 is a disease that we will not see go away anytime soon, and the flu is an example of the pattern that coronavirus may follow.

“This is going to become a endemic disease, which means this is an infection that is always percolating in the human population and it may pop up to epidemic proportions at times. But the folks at Moderna and Pfizer are percolating the latest formula for a revised vaccine that will handle any problems that Omicron is going to produce,” said Aaronson