MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As more countries report cases of the new omicron coronavirus variant, there are concerns about whether it’s more contagious and virulent than the delta variant.

“This thing has mutated like crazy,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, an infectious disease specialist with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “There’s at least 30 mutations in the spike protein. This is like way more than any other variant.”

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Those mutations could make it easier for the virus to infect the cells.

“If you look at the data, it does look like it’s most likely transmitting easier than Delta,” Dr. Murphy said. “We don’t know if it’s really any worse as far as disease progression or death or hospitalization. So, it may be very similar to what we saw with Delta. But all this really has to play out, and it’s gonna take us probably at least one to two weeks.”

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Another concern, how effective current vaccines will be against the new variant, which is now being studied.

“It’s most likely that the current vaccines do offer some kind of protection,” Dr. Murphy said.

When asked how many more of these variants could there be in our future, Dr. Murphy said, “It’s going to be endless until everybody is vaccinated.”

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Experts agree a worldwide vaccination effort is critical to stop this pandemic because the longer it goes on, the more likely the virus can mutate.