The first known COVID omicron variant case has been reported in the U.S. after a traveler from South Africa arrived in San Francisco.
“The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive on November 29. The individual is self-quarantining and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts, thus far, have tested negative. The individual was fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, which are improving at this point. So this is the first confirmed case of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant detected in the United States,” Fauci said.
The good news is that the person is fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms. While a lot is still unknown about the new variant, which was detected about a month ago, scientists in the Bay Area are focusing on the new variant. Read this article from the East Bay Times:
“Experiments at our region’s top labs — Stanford, UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, the Gladstone Institute, the Innovative Genomics Institute and UC Davis — are joining the national effort to learn whether omicron can efficiently infect cells and whether our antibodies can fend if off. They will show whether current tests to detect the virus are still accurate and whether monoclonal antibody treatments still work.
Compared to our response to Delta, research into omicron is happening extraordinarily fast.”
So far, what we also know is that the Omicron is more transmissible than even the Delta variant, and also that the cases have been more mild, though we will likely know more in a week or so. Doctors in the U.S. are getting information from medical professionals in South Africa, who have been tracking cases for weeks. Health officials believe the current vaccines are still the best way to protect against severe illness, and are encouraging people to get their booster shots as well.
The ways in which some countries have responded to the new variant have drawn critique: “Richer countries, having already hoarded vaccines for much of 2021, were now penalizing parts of the world that they had starved of shots in the first place, scientists said,” according to this New York Times article. South African scientists have been working hard to sequence genomes and alert the rest of the world to the new variant, and some say the country is now being punished for it.
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