The infected person entered the U.S. before Omicron even had a name.
The Omicron variant has officially arrived in the United States and the White House is urging everyone who's eligible to get vaccinated ASAP.
The White House and the CDC confirmed the first U.S. case of COVID-19 caused by the new COVID-19 variant on Wednesday, one week after public health experts warned that it was becoming a problem in South Africa.
The first case was found in an infected person who returned to California from South Africa on November 22, according to the White House. That person tested positive for COVID-19 on November 29.
"This is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant detected in the United States," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said at a briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
"We knew that it was just a matter of time."
Fauci added that the infected person was fully vaccinated and that they are self-quarantining with mild symptoms.
Officials have also traced his close contacts and all of them have tested negative at this point, Fauci said.
Omicron was first reported to WHO on November 24 and there are concerns that it may spread faster and be more resistant to vaccines than other variants. The World Health Organization gave it a name and labelled it a "variant of concern" on November 26.
Studies are underway to figure out exactly what this heavily mutated version of the virus can do, but in the meantime, many countries have added travel restrictions in hopes of keeping the variant out.
Fauci says it'll be a few weeks before the world gets a better sense of how the Omicron variant behaves.
The Omicron variant has been detected in South Africa and Botswana, and it's been spotted in travellers to over two dozen countries around the world, The New York Times reports.
“We know what we need to do to protect people," Fauci said. "Get vaccinated if you’re not already vaccinated. Get boosted if you’ve been vaccinated for more than 6 months with an mRNA.”
“If you look at the things that we have been recommending, they’re just the same," he added.
The CDC has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.
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