First known case of Omicron in US found in fully vaccinated overseas traveler – .

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First known case of Omicron in US found in fully vaccinated overseas traveler – .


WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday identified its first known case of COVID caused by the Omicron variant, found in a fully vaccinated patient who traveled to South Africa, as scientists continue to study the risks that the new version could pose.

Public health officials said the infected person, who was showing mild and improving symptoms, returned from South Africa to the United States on November 22 and tested positive seven days later.

This patient has been fully vaccinated but has not received a booster, according to Dr.Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease official, who informed White House reporters.

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The person is in self-quarantine and all of the patient’s close contacts have tested negative, he said.

Key questions remain about the new variant, which has mutated in a way that health experts believe could improve its ability to spread and evade some of the defenses provided by vaccines. Work is underway to update these vaccines, if necessary.

Omicron has been found in two dozen countries, including several in Europe as well as Canada, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Israel.

The United States has not yet detected community transmission of Omicron. In much of the country, transmission of COVID remains high, but new cases have remained fairly stable over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters tally. Three-quarters of all COVID samples in South Africa are now Omicron. Read more

A nurse fills a syringe with Pfizer vaccine as mobile vaccination teams begin to visit all Los Angeles Unified middle and high school campuses to administer the first and second doses of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines in Los Angeles Angeles, California, United States, August 30, 2021. REUTERS / Mike Blake

“The critical thing is, over the next week will we see community transmission of this case,” said Andy Pekosz, virologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This is a critical thing that we want to keep an eye on. “

Pekosz said the variant could make the relatively new set of antiviral pills from Merck (MRK.N) and Pfizer (PFE.N) more important by helping reduce the severity of infections.

Fauci said it could take two or more weeks to gain insight into how easily the variant spreads from person to person, the severity of the disease it causes and whether it can work around them. protections provided by currently available vaccines.

The Biden administration has asked those fully vaccinated to request booster shots after their initial doses. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated and about a fifth of those people have taken boosters.

For days, U.S. health officials said the new variant – first detected in southern Africa and announced on November 25 – was likely already in the United States, as dozens of other countries have detected its presence as well.

“This new variant is a source of concern but not of panic,” Biden said Wednesday before the Omicron case was announced. A spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said the president had been briefed by his team on the first known U.S. case.

The benchmark US stock indexes turned negative on the news. The S&P 500 (.SPX) fell more than 1%, extending its price loss over the past week to almost 4%. The World Health Organization on Friday named the variant of concern.

The United States has banned nearly all foreigners who have visited any of the eight countries in southern Africa. On Tuesday, the CDC ordered airlines to release the names and other information of passengers who have traveled to those countries. Read more

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Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Ahmed Aboulenein and Nandita Bose in Washington, and Mrinalika Roy and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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