The US confirmed its first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant on Wednesday (December 1) in a patient in California.
According to health officials, the patient had recently traveled from South Africa and had "mild symptoms" as a result of the infection.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, confirmed the news during a press conference and took questions from reporters about the travel ban and what else is known about the newest Covid-19 variant.
"The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive on November 29. The individual is self-quarantining and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts, thus far, have tested negative," Fauci said.
Fauci added that the person was "fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, which are improving at this point. So this is the first confirmed case of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant detected in the United States."
Experts in California say widespread testing and genome sequencing led to the discovery and fast-action to isolate the person infected with the variant.
The Omicron variant was first identified by researchers in South Africa who acted quickly to warn the world about a new strain the coronavirus.
The variant has been identified in more than 20 countries across the globe, including Canada, parts of Asia and multiple European countries –– some of which now know the variant was in their borders before South African scientists made the discovery.
Scientists are continuing to work on studying Omicron's transmissibility and if it is resistant to the available vaccines.
Fauci told reporters, it may be a few weeks before more definitive information is known, but in the meantime, all pandemic protocols –– including masking, social distancing, and getting the vaccine plus a booster dose –– should be followed.
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