By Jessica Vallejo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On Friday evening, CBS4 News spoke to an infectious disease specialist who spent numerous years in South Africa studying rare viruses there.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist, has remained in contact with medical doctors and researchers – who said there is new information about this variant

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Specifically regarding children.

“A very large fraction of the people who are getting sick are young including very young children under the age of 5 and because those numbers are large the number of children being hospitalized has increased to the point that it is very concerning”

Dr. Marty said the highly transmissible Omicron variant has increased hospital admissions in South Africa, particularly in the age group of 5 and under.

While there have been no cases of children with Omicron in the United States, Dr. Marty said we must be aware and protect our children early on.

Trials are underway for both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children as young as 6 months

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For now, those under the age of 5, can not receive a vaccine.

“So we need to protect those children and the best way to protect those children is to assure that the people around the child are vaccinated. And if you are taking your child where there is a lot of people , its indoors and it is crowded, then if the child is 2 years old or over, the child should wear a mask and you should ask the people if you can to also wear a mask around your child.”

Dr. Marty said one reason why children in this age group may be contracting Omicron is that the variant has 32 mutations – insercians and lecians in the spike protein, which is the vital structure of the coronavirus uses to attack cells.

The changes in the structure she says have made it easier for the spike to get opened up.

“I think that people need to understand that there was a lot of controversy in the beginning because there were some studies that made it seem as if children could not transmit. That is false. What we do know is that in general children fair better than older individuals but that does not mean that your child cant get very ill. So if your child is 5 or over get the child vaccinated.”

Now, there have been no reports of a child dying from omicron in South Africa.

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CBS4 also learned they have been able to demonstrate to Dr. Marty that people who are unvaccinated and had COVID are getting infected for the second and third time with the Omicron variant.