ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The omicron COVID-19 variant is officially here in the U.S. It's been talked about for days now, as health officials and scientists rush to learn more about it.

"I think that this probably, why this particular variant has had so much rep or so much noise to it, just because there are so many mutations on it. There are more than 30 mutations on the spike protein," said Dr. Giancarlo Cuadra, an assistant professor of biology at Muhlenberg College.

Cuadra says that doesn't mean it will cause more severe symptoms.

"Just because there's more mutations doesn't automatically mean, 'oh, we're all doomed,'" Cuadra said.

Cuadra is also confident based on science that the current vaccines will offer some degree of protection against serious illness from omicron.

"It doesn't really mean that we are all of a sudden not going to have protection or immunity against that new variant," Cuadra said.

Cuadra points to the facts of the first case discovered in the U.S as promising. A man who returned to California after a trip to South Africa tested positive on Nov. 29. Dr. Anthony Fauci says he had only mild symptoms and is almost recovered. He was vaccinated, but he did not get a booster.

"That's another good indication that the vaccine is, although he didn't have the third shot, which is the second booster, that is reassuring that he is recovering and only had mild symptoms," Cuadra said.

While it may be reassuring, Caudra says we need to remain cautious and continue to take steps to minimize the spread of any of the variants, as we wait to find out just how the omicron variant will affect the U.S. population.

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