The first confirmed case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been identified in the United States California.
Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said the variant was discovered in a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before the first case of omicron was detected in the United States,” Fauci said.
The person, who was fully vaccinated but did not receive a booster dose, tested positive on Monday and had mild symptoms that were improving, officials said. The person agreed to remain in quarantine, and all close contacts of the individual were accessed. They have tested negative results.
The identification by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new variant.
At least 23 other countries have reported Omicron infections, according to the World Health Organization.
Biden’s administration moved late last month to travel restriction From South Africa, where the variant was first identified and widespread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in about two dozen other countries.
The CDC is moving to tighten US testing rules for overseas travelers, including requiring testing for all travelers within one day of boarding a flight to the US regardless of vaccination status. She is also considering post-arrival testing.
Officials said these measures would only “buy time” for the country to learn more about the new variant and take appropriate precautions, but because of its transmissibility, its arrival in the United States is inevitable.
Much is still unknown about the variant How do you respond to vaccinations?
“Any announcement of what will or won’t happen with this variant, I think it’s too early to say,” Fauci said.
He said Americans should continue to follow public health advice to get vaccinated and get booster shots. “If you look at the things we’ve been recommending, they’re similar,” Fauci said.
The California variant was found by genetic sequencing at the University of California, San Francisco, and the CDC confirmed that it is compatible with the Omicron variant.
“We will likely see this scenario implemented many times across the country in the coming days or weeks,” said Scott Baker, chief executive of the Federation of Public Health Laboratories.
California Governor Gavin Newsom attributed the variant identification to the state’s “extensive testing and early detection systems” and said it likely already exists in other states as well.
“There is no reason to panic – but we must remain vigilant. That means getting vaccinated. Get a booster. Wear a mask indoors.”
The discovery of the Omicron variant in California comes as cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined in the state over the past two weeks. In California, 67.7% of the population age five and older is vaccinated, but the virus continues to strain public health systems in some areas. in a Fresno County Late last month, hospitals were “consistently above 100% capacity,” forcing patients to wait hours or even days to get a bed.
“Between now and next year, we may have a very difficult winter,” said Rice Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer, at a news conference last month.
The dominant form in the United States is still the delta strain, which drove a new wave of cases across the country over the summer.
Public health officials continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated, including booster shots, which they say are the best protection against the virus.
“With this news of the Omicron variant, there are more questions than answers at this point,” said Lisa Almaguire, a spokeswoman for the Butte County Department of Public Health, California. “The information does not change current recommendations. For variants, the best thing people can do to reduce the spread of disease is to get vaccinated, and if you haven’t had a booster, now is the time to get the booster.”