A person in California has the nation’s first confirmed case of the new omicron coronavirus variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday.
The unidentified individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa to the U.S. on Nov. 22. The case was confirmed by the California and San Francisco departments of public health, the CDC said.
“The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative,” the CDC said in a statement.
The World Health Organization has described omicron, which was first identified by researchers in South Africa, as a “variant of concern.”
There is much that is still not known about this form of the virus, including whether it’s more transmissible than other variants, whether it’s more likely to cause serious illness, and whether it’s better able to evade immune protection.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said Sunday that it would likely take two to three weeks for scientists to find answers.
On Friday, the White House announced that it would prohibit travelers arriving from several southern African nations, even as a growing number of countries in other parts of the world, including Canada and the U.K., confirmed cases.
Days after that announcement, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the omicron variant would “inevitably” be in the U.S. if it was not already. He encouraged Americans to prepare by getting up to date with their vaccines