On Wednesday, the United States identified its first local COVID-19 Omicron case. The patient was a fully vaccinated American who recently traveled to South Africa.
Scientists and health officers have yet to fully determine the risks posed by the newest COVID-19 variant of concern.
First US COVID Omicron Case Is A Vaccinated American
Public health officials said that the first COVID Omicron case was from a fully vaccinated American. The patient displayed mild and improving symptoms and arrived from South Africa on November 22. The patient tested positive seven days later.
Despite getting completely vaccinated, the patient did not get a booster shot. This is according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official.
Currently, the COVID Omicron patient remains in self-quarantine. All close contacts and household members tested negative for COVID.
First US COVID Omicron Patient Can Provide Key Answers On New Strain
The new coronavirus variant poses a lot of questions. Will vaccines designed for earlier strains work? Will it carry symptoms different from earlier COVID strains?
In addition, many experts feared that Omicron’s mutation might have strengthened its ability to spread to others and withstand protective measures.
If this is the case, many current vaccines and treatments will need updating to work on the COVID Omicron strain.
At present, around two dozen countries reported the presence of the COVID Omicron variant in their countries. South Africa was the first country to report the presence of the new variant.
However, it’s likely the variant existed outside the country prior to its detection. Now, Omicron is present in several European countries, Canada, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Israel.
The United States, while reporting a COVID Omicron case in its territory, has yet to report community transmission cases.
Monitoring For Community Transmission
Andy Pekosz, a virologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the next few days remain important.
“The critical thing is, over the next week or so, will we see any community transmission from that case. That’s a critical thing that we want to keep an eye on,” he said.
Pekosz added that the COVID Omicron variant can make the new antiviral pills from Merck and Pfizer more important. They can help reduce the severity of infections.
Meanwhile, Fauci said that it could take up to two weeks before American health officials can gain insights into how the new virus strain works.
During this time, scientists can determine how quickly the virus spreads across the community. The observation window can also reveal the severity of its symptoms and whether it can withstand current vaccine protections.
Cause For Concern, Not Panic
Despite the huge press coverage for the COVID Omicron strain, the federal government advised people not to panic. At least, not panic yet. The White House encouraged vaccinated Americans to get boosters.
Around 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated. However, only 20% of this number chose to get booster shots.
The data is according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This new variant is a cause for concern but not a cause for panic,” President Joe Biden said on Wednesday.
Watch the CBC News video reporting that the first Omicron case detected in the US was addressed at White House press briefing:
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