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First case of omicron COVID variant confirmed in U.S.

The Californian had just returned from South Africa and tested positive for the variant five days later.

The first case of the COVID-19 variant called omicron has been detected in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday. 

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a press briefing Wednesday that the fully vaccinated Californian had just returned from South Africa to the San Francisco area on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29, CNBC reported. 

“The individual is self quarantining and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts, thus far, have tested negative,” Fauci said. “We feel good that this patient not only had mild symptoms, but actually the symptoms appear to be improving.”

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that Omicron had been detected in 23 countries. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, the COVID-19 technical lead in WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said Wednesday that while it is in the “early days” there is some indication that some patients with omicron are presenting with mild disease, according to NPR

“We expect to have more information on transmission within days, not necessarily weeks, [and] in days in terms of the severity profile,” Kerkhve said.  

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, UAB’s director of infectious diseases, said during a Monday briefing that increases in COVID infections in South Africa, where omicron was first detected, over the last few weeks is a cause for concern. 

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“Some people are concerned that omicron might be behind that. We don’t know that that’s the case,” Marrazzo said. “One small silver lining about that observation is that they have not seen an increase in hospitalizations and deaths in association with that increasing cases in South Africa.”

Marrazzo explained that it’s not yet known whether the current COVID-19 vaccines will stand up to omicron, but said that should be known in a week or so as studies underway are completed. 

“If it turns out that the current vaccines won’t do the trick, the vaccine manufacturers will very likely need to create a whole new vaccine,” Marrazzo said. 

Marrazzo and other infectious disease experts and public health officials continue to urge the public to get vaccinated. 

“If you are vaccinated, but still worried about Omicron, go get your booster. And if you aren’t vaccinated, go get that shot,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet Wednesday after the first case of omicron was detected in the U.S.

Alabama has the fourth lowest percentage of residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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