ATLANTA (WFLA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is keeping an eye on the emergence of a new, highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 that began in South Africa.
The CDC made its announcement Friday as the World Health Organization (WHO) classified variant B.1.1.529 as a Variant of Concern, granting it the designation Omicron.
The Omicron variant has caused concern among health experts as its mutated properties allowed it to spread quickly among younger individuals, causing COVID-19 levels in South Africa to spike rapidly after a period of low growth.
Such concerns pushed the United States and European Union to enact a travel ban from South Africa and other nations to contain the virus. However, experts say these bans won’t stop the virus from reaching the West.
“Travel restrictions can delay but not prevent the spread of a highly transmissible variant,” said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh, in a report by the Associated Press.
With the use of the U.S. variant surveillance system, the CDC expects the virus to be identified quickly once it enters into the U.S.
In the meanwhile, the health organization continues to recommend mask-wearing, social distancing, and vaccinations to protect against COVID-19 variants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.