The first confirmed US case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been identified in California.
During a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the case occurred in an individual who traveled from South Africa on the 22nd. November and tested positive for Covid-19 on November 11, 29.
That individual, Fauci said, is self-isolating and close contacts have tested negative for coronavirus so far.
The person is fully vaccinated and is experiencing “mild symptoms, which are improving at this time,” Fauci said.
Asked by CNN if the person had received booster injections, Fauci said, “To my knowledge, no.”
The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health confirmed this case to be caused by the Omicron variant through genome sequencing conducted at the University of California at San Francisco, and the sequencing was confirmed by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Color Health said in a statement it returned positive test results through the San Francisco Covid-19 testing program and identified Omicrons in less than 30 hours “from time of collection until strain confirmation”.
The unknowns about Omicron: The World Health Organization designates Omicron as a “variant of concern.” In a technical summary published this week, WHO notes that this variant poses a “very high” risk globally. This variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa, and has since been detected in several countries.
Scientists are working to determine how transmissible the variant is, how it causes disease in humans, and how effectively current vaccines work against it. Until more information is known about this version, the US has restricted travel from South Africa and seven other countries.