TAMPA, Florida – The first confirmed case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the state of Florida has been reported to the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, according to the Veterans Administration.
Hospital officials confirmed the diagnosis on Tuesday.
“Yes, we can confirm the detection of a case of Omicron variant B.1.1.529. The patient has mild symptoms and had recently returned from an international trip. Our providers were able to quickly detect, test, confirm and add this data to our growing understanding of this strain, ”the VA said in a statement to ABC Action News.
Health officials said it was only a matter of time before the omicron variant was found in Florida. The variant was first detected in South Africa around November 21. Since then, it has spread rapidly in South Africa and has been found in several countries around the world and in several states there.
“What worries people is that there are a lot of mutations, so it looks like the antibodies from a natural infection, the vaccine and even some of the monoclonal antibodies are not going to be as strong against the virus, so that’s the part we’re worried about. So far the cases appear to be fairly mild, “said Dr. Kami Kim, director of infectious diseases and international medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
Researchers are still trying to determine how virulent the omicron variant is and whether it is as deadly as the delta variant. Preliminary research has shown that the variant may be more transmissible than others, but the World Health Organization has not definitively said how virulent the variant has become.
Additionally, a new Guardian report said scientists had discovered a “stealth” version of the omicron variant. According to the Guardian, the new variant of omicron has been detected in samples from South Africa, Canada and Australia.
Florida Department of Health officials said a second case has been confirmed by the CDC in St. Lucia County.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said in a statement, “Our teams performed a contact tracing to identify possible exposures and advise on necessary isolation and quarantine protocols.”