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Department of Public Health monitoring new COVID-19 variant

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is aware of and is closely monitoring a new COVID-19 variant first detected in southern Africa, according to a DPH press release. 

According to the release, the variant, which has been named Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO), has a large number of mutations. 

“Scientists are studying the variant to determine how quickly and easily it spreads, whether it causes more severe illness and how well the current COVID vaccines will protect against it,” the release said. 

The release said that the variant has yet to be detected in Georgia but has been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. According to the DPH, vaccination is encouraged to help protect people against the virus and to try to slow the emergence of any further variants. 

“What is known is that COVID vaccination helps stop transmission of infection which prevents new variants from emerging,” Georgia DPH Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H. said in the release. “Vaccination is more important than ever with the emergence of this new variant and the holidays just around the corner.” 

According to the release, all Georgians over the age of five are now eligible for vaccination, and booster doses are recommended for adults 18 and older who have completed their first series of vaccination. 

Individuals who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or who may have been exposed to someone with the virus should get tested, the release said. PCR testing can detect the presence of the Omicron variant. 

“DPH will continue to monitor information about Omicron and provide updates as new information becomes available,” the release said. 

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