The very first case of the newly identified COVID-19 Omicron variant has been detected in California, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.
What are the details?
In a news release, the public health agency said the new variant was detected in a fully vaccinated American traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22.
"The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive," the CDC noted, adding, "All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative."
The case was confirmed using genomic sequencing at the University of California-San Francisco.
During a press briefing, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters that the individual, who has not been identified, tested positive for the variant on Nov. 29. He had reportedly not received a booster shot.
“The individual is self quarantining and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts, thus far, have tested negative,” Fauci added, according to CNBC. “We feel good that this patient not only had mild symptoms but actually the symptoms appear to be improving.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, the White House added, "It was only a matter of time before the first case of Omicron was detected in the U.S. We are prepared to meet this challenge with science and speed."
"The President’s medical team continues to believe that existing vaccines will provide some level of protection against severe illness from Omicron, and individuals who have gotten boosters have even stronger protection. As such, we urge all adults to get their booster shots and to get themselves and their kids vaccinated, if they haven’t already," the statement continued.
What's the background?
Omicron was first identified over Thanksgiving weekend in South Africa and among travelers from South Africa that had arrived in a handful of other countries. It has since been found in at least 23 countries, including Canada, the U.K., Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy.
News of its detection almost immediately sparked worldwide hysteria due to some early indicators that the variant had the potential to be highly transmissible and resistant to current vaccines.
Global markets dipped, and several countries — including the U.S. — responded by banning travel from South Africa and neighboring countries in an effort to stop the spread. Mainstream media figures in the U.S. even panicked that the variant might do damage to President Joe Biden's agenda.
Omicron has since been listed as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization and is being closely monitored by scientists around the world.
This is a breaking news story. It may be updated.