The first case of infection with the omicron variant of the coronavirus has been reported in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.
The patient, a traveller who returned to California from South Africa on Nov 22, is in isolation and aggressive contact tracing is underway. The individual was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, reports The New York Times.
The World Health Organization has warned that the risk posed by the variant, a new iteration of the coronavirus that was first identified in southern Africa, is “very high.” More than a dozen countries across four continents have detected the variant since it was first identified in southern Africa. Experts have said it was only a matter of time before the variant showed up in the United States.
Omicron carries more than 50 genetic mutations that in theory may make it both more contagious and less vulnerable to the body’s immune defences than previous variants. More than 30 of the mutations are in the virus’ spike, a protein on its surface. Vaccines train the body’s immune defences to target and attack these spikes.