The first case of the latest concerning coronavirus variant called omicron has been found in California, according to the CDC.
“It was only a matter of time before the first case of Omicron was detected in the U.S. We are prepared to meet this challenge with science and speed,” said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator.
The infected person was a traveler from South Africa, where omicron was first detected, and they got back to the states on Nov. 22. The patient is fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms that are improving. Their close contacts have tested negative, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Genomic sequencing, which is used to identify coronavirus variants, was performed at the University of California, San Francisco and confirmed at the CDC. The tests showed the infection was consistent with the omicron variant.
It is the first confirmed case of omicron in the United States. The variant has been detected in more than a dozen other countries.
Little is known about the variant and scientists are still working to determine if it is more contagious, severe, or immune-evading.
Zients said vaccines will provide some level of protection against the variant and booster shots will offer even greater protection against severe disease.
Omicron has many mutations in the spike protein of the virus, which public health experts have said is concerning and it appeared to have spread rapidly in South Africa where very few people are vaccinated.
President Joe Biden is expected to make announcements about the country’s coronavirus strategy for the winter on Thursday.
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