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First Case of Omicron Covid Variant in Identified in California

First Case of Omicron Covid Variant in Identified in California
folder_openUnited States access_timeone month ago
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By Staff, Agencies

The first case in the United States of the Omicron variant has been identified in California, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] reported on Wednesday.

According to the joint statement by the CDC and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the person detected with the variant "was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22, 2021. The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has bene since testing positive. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative."

After the variant was first identified by South African scientists last month and named Omicron by the World Health Organization, the US and several other countries instituted travel bans on eight southern African nations, including South Africa. However, there are significant indications that it has been circulating for much longer, as Dutch authorities said they had detected the variant before the subsequent wave of flight bans from southern African nations took effect, and Nigerian scientists claim to have found Omicron-positive blood tests taken in October.

Both the WHO and the CDC have classified Omicron as a Variant of Concern.

The Omicron variant has aroused concerns by health officials due to the unusually large number of mutations found in its spike protein, the device the virus uses to infect the host's cells - 32, far more than any other known variant. Since mutations have helped variants like Delta to become far more transmissible than regular SARS-CoV-2, some fear Omicron could have a similar capability, or be able to evade some immune defenses created by prior SARS-CoV-2 infection or by vaccines.

However, others have pointed out that not every mutation is necessarily a beneficial one, meaning it might not be easier to spread after all.

So far, indications seem to be that Omicron causes a milder form of COVID-19, with some symptoms being less severe and others not appearing at all, and significantly fewer hospitalized cases. Nonetheless, the CDC has strongly recommended that all eligible Americans get vaccinated or get a booster shot.

Scientists have few firm answers about the properties of the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including how long it's been in circulation.