US reports first confirmed case of Omicron variant

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The CDC says the new coronavirus strain was confirmed in a California man who returned from South Africa last month.

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that the United States has reported its first confirmed case of the Omicron version of the coronavirus.


The CDC said in a statement that the case was confirmed in a California man who returned from South Africa on November 22.

The CDC said the man, who was not identified, was fully vaccinated and was experiencing mild symptoms, which were improving.

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“The person is self-quarantined and all close contacts have been tested and all close contacts have tested negative so far,” US Chief Infectious Disease Officer Dr Anthony Fauci told reporters at the White House.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before the first case of Omicron was detected in the United States,” said Fauci, who has urged people to get vaccinated and prevent the spread of the virus indoors and in isolated settings. urged to wear masks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on 26 November designated Omicron as “a type of concern” after health experts in South Africa first detected the new strain.

A WHO advisory panel said early evidence showed the new B.1.1529 variant, which it dubbed Omicron after a letter in the Greek alphabet, had an increased risk of reinfection compared to other highly transmissible strains.

The WHO later said the variant posed a “very high” global risk, as scientists work to determine whether it is more contagious or causes more severe disease than other variants.

The US and other countries have imposed a variety of restrictions on travel from South Africa and neighboring countries after Omicron’s detection, although public health experts and world leaders have dismissed those measures as “punitive”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that travel restrictions imposed on COVID-19 isolating any one country or region are “not only highly unreasonable and punitive – they are ineffective”.

Guterres said during a news conference that countries that had reported the emergence of new strains “should not be collectively punished for identifying and sharing important science and health information with the world”.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

Omicron is now found in a growing list of more than 24 countries worldwide.

The first case in the US comes as COVID-19 cases are rising in Michigan and other Midwestern states where cold weather has arrived.

But Fauci said health officials “feel good” that the person in California experienced only mild symptoms that were improving, and cautioned against drawing any conclusions about the virulence of the Omicron virus.

“There’s a lot of information that’s now evolving from countries like South Africa, which have a very high number of individuals,” Fauci said.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden sought to reassure the American public that the new tensions should be “considered a cause for concern, not a cause for panic”.

“This version is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” he said on Monday. “If you’ve been vaccinated but are still worried about the new version, get your booster. If you haven’t been vaccinated, get that shot. Go get that first shot.”


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