(WXYZ) — With the first case of Omicron variant detected in West Michigan, the state is now among 25 where the highly mutated COVID-19 strain has been recorded.
The news comes as the nation grapples with a wave of delta infections that has pushed COVID-19 cases here in Michigan at an all-time high.
Dr. Mathew Sims, the director of infectious diseases at Beaumont, says so far research shows omicron to be highly transmissible.
"We are worried about it because it also looks like it's four times more contagious than Delta," Sims said.
Early data also shows that vaccinated individuals are being infected, as well as reports of reinfection in previous COVID-19 patients.
"In South Africa, they are reporting it's affecting younger people more. But most of the reports have it's been a milder infection than previous variants," Sims added. And even if Omicron results in a mild infection, doctors say it could still result in more people being hospitalized. That's why the vaccine is the best bet."
"You get vaccinated for the strain that is causing the problem now, you hope that it protected you from the next strain," he added.
With the US entering the biggest holiday time of the year, Dr. Patricia Wilkerson Uddyback from Detroit Medical Center is urging people to get the booster shot and continue to mask up and socially distance where possible.
"Those are the things we know worked when we didn't know or didn't have the vaccine and those are things that will continue to protect us until we get beyond this," she said.
Travelers are also being encouraged to be mindful.
"It's in the Airport, when you are in the restaurants, and you are eating, you still have to be vigilant. Now obviously you can’t eat with your mask on but you have to be mindful that as soon as you finish eating you put your mask back on, you wash your hands," Uddyback said.