1st confirmed U.S. case of Omicron variant detected in California

1st confirmed U.S. case of Omicron variant detected in California

Just as covid restrictions were easing and the world was going back to pre covid days, a new virus variant has surged. This new variant called Omicron worries scientists globally as it is heavily mutated and may be able to forgo the vaccine. Thus, all our collective efforts towards mass vaccination may go to waste! The new covid variant is spreading rapidly, and the 1st confirmed U.S case of the Omicron variant had been detected in California. Keep reading to find out the latest information about the new covid variant. 

1st U.S Case of Omicron Variant

On Wednesday, the CDC announced that it had detected the new virus strain in Northern California. 

According to White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, the patient was fully vaccinated before travelling to South Africa. However, when she returned from the hub of the omicron variant, she tested positive seven days after her arrival back home.

To calm the public down, Dr. Fauci also said, 

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

The University of California conducted genomic sequencing of the patient’s virus and confirmed the Omicron variant.

“There’s no reason to panic — but we should remain vigilant. That means getting vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear a mask indoors,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom also confirmed that the patient was between 18 and 49 years. She had not received a booster shot of the vaccine as she was not eligible for it yet. A six-month time gap is required after the second dose to receive a booster.

1st confirmed U.S. case of Omicron variant detected in California

The local officials of San Francisco and Gov Newsom mutually agreed to not impose restrictions as of yet. 

“There’s more panic than information around this new variant,” Newsom told the public. I think we can communicate to avoid any shutdowns. We can avoid shutting down our schools or businesses. None of us wants to see that happen.”

Omicron Variant- Where has it spread to? 

South Africa initially reported the variant to WHO, and since then, it has spread to apartheid Palestine, Canada, the U.K, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Along with Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong has also reported cases of the new variant. 

According to the WHO, the Omicron variant has spread to 23 countries at the very least!

The CEO of Moderna Stephane Bancel warned everyone on Monday that the new strain has already spread globally. He gave an example of flights travelling from South Africa to Amsterdam on Friday. Upon arrival, 61 out of the 624 passengers were infected with covid. 14 of them were found to be cases of Omicron strain!

The Portuguese health authorities have also expressed their concern. They announced that 13 members and staff of a professional soccer team in Lisbon have tested positive for the Omicron variant after one of the team’s players returned from South Africa.

We also believe it is already present in most countries,” Bancel added. “I believe most countries that have direct flights from South Africa in the last seven to 10 days already have cases in their country that they may not be aware of.”

Travel Bans 

A travel ban is imposed by the US which will start from Monday. Non-citizens travelling to the states from South Africa and seven other nearby nations will not be allowed to enter. Additionally, non-citizens who have travelled to these countries in the past 14 days will also be banned from travelling.

The U.K and the European Union also implemented the same travel restrictions.

U.S Plan of Action for Omicron

President Joe Biden directs the FDA and CDC to use the “fastest process available without cutting any corners” to find vaccines that specifically target the omicron. These vaccines will be made available on the market as soon as possible to curb the spread of the disease.

As the current Covid vaccines offer some protection against the Omicron variant, citizens are still advised to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Booster shots “strengthen that protection significantly,” said Biden in his White House speech. 

Omicron- A variant of Concern

On Friday, WHO has officially marked Omicron as a “Variant of Concern”. It is supposedly more virulent and smart at escaping current vaccines and protective measures and more contagious. It has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein that can enter human bodies. Additionally, it has over 50 mutations in its entire structure. 

These mutations could allow the variant to escape antibodies and render current vaccines useless according to Officials.

“The molecular profile of the kinds of mutations that you see [in omicron] would suggest that it might be more transmissible and that it might elude some of the protection of vaccines,” Fauci warned on Wednesday. “But we don’t know that now.”

He also emphasized the importance of boosters. He also advised people to be prepared for the possibility that the vaccine-associated immunity may be greatly decreased. 

The symptoms of the variant are “extremely mild” confirmed Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association. Unfortunately, CEO Blancel disagrees and says that the South African symptoms don’t give us a good prediction of the variant’s virulence. 

“I think today, it’s impossible to know … I don’t believe that what’s going to happen in the coming week or two in South Africa will be predicting to be full virulence of a virus,” Bancel said.

Pfizer and Other Drugmakers Response to Omicron

All drugmakers are quick to come to the rescue! Pfizer and BioNTech are ready to investigate Omicron and change their vaccines, respectively. On the other hand, Johnson & Johnson is already testing their vaccine against the virus. Additionally, the order now will test three booster candidates against the new strain. The company will also produce a booster shot that is made specifically for the Omicron variant. 

New Guidelines for Americans

Fauci advised Americans to feel safe celebrating the holidays indoors with family and friends fully vaccinated.

“You can feel safe with not wearing a mask and having a dinner or having a reception,” he added. “But when you are in a public congregate setting in which you do not know the status of the vaccination of the people involved, it is very prudent to wear a mask.”

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