A person in San Francisco has been identified as having the first recorded case of the Omicron variant in the United States, health officials said on Wednesday.
California and federal officials suspect the variant coronavirus is now likely in other parts of the country. They say his presence is cause for concern but not for panic.
The infected individual returned from South Africa on November 22, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
A few days after arriving in San Francisco, the person started to feel unwell and was tested. On Monday, the result came back positive and the virus sample was then analyzed and found to be the last named strain of coronavirus.
Citing privacy, health officials have released few details about the individual. Governor Gavin Newsom said the person was between 18 and 49 years old.
The person was fully immunized and had mild symptoms that did not require hospitalization. Officials said the individual’s condition was improving on Wednesday.
“The person recently traveled to South Africa and developed symptoms on their return,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco director of health. “And they did the right thing and got tested and reported their travel history.”
The arrival of the variant was not unexpected. First detected last month, the strain has already been found in around two dozen countries around the world.
“It’s no surprise that we actually have a case here in California, and we expect that over time we will have additional cases,” said Dr Mark Ghaly, Secretary of State for health and social services. “And that is why we must remain vigilant.”
Much remains unknown about Omicron. The answers to the most pressing questions – whether the variant spreads more easily, can cause serious illness, or sidestep some of the protection offered by vaccines – likely won’t be known for a few weeks.
There are no signs of a larger outbreak in the Bay Area yet, but local officials said they would be on the lookout for any new cases.
State and local authorities say they remain confident the new variant will not require the reimposition of lockdowns or other restrictions. But they are urging the public to get vaccinated.