The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of the newly discovered COVID-19 variant Omicron in the U.S. on Wednesday, saying an individual in California who had recently traveled to South Africa tested positive for the strain.
"The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive," the CDC said in a statement. "All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative."
The health agency said the emergence of the variant "emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and general prevention strategies needed to protect against COVID-19. Everyone 5 and older should get vaccinated boosters are recommended for everyone 18 years and older."
South Africa reported the variant to the World Health Organization last week, and the agency labeled Omicron a "variant of concern." The Biden administration responded by announcing international travel restrictions from eight southern African countries.
The variant's emergence in the U.S. comes amid the busy holiday travel season. According to auto club AAA, over 53 million Americans were estimated to have traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday, an increase from last year.
How vaccines perform against the variant remains unclear. On "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and a member of Pfizer's board, conveyed confidence in the vaccines.
"People who have looked closely at this sequence … those individuals feel reasonably confident that three doses of vaccine is going to be protective," Gottlieb said. "Now, that could give a really strong impetus to trying to get more people boosted."
Here is the CDC Press Release:
The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health have confirmed that a recent case of COVID-19 among an individual in California was caused by the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529). The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22, 2021. The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative.
Genomic sequencing was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco and the sequence was confirmed at CDC as being consistent with the Omicron variant. This will be the first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant detected in the United States.
On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron and on November 30, 2021, the United States also classified it as a Variant of Concern. CDC has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant, and we will continue to work diligently with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to learn more. Despite the detection of Omicron, Delta remains the predominant strain in the United States.
The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and general prevention strategies needed to protect against COVID-19. Everyone 5 and older should get vaccinated boosters are recommended for everyone 18 years and older.
For more information on the Omicron variant visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/index.html.