The omicron variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Virginia. It is the first case reported in the commonwealth.
The sample came from an adult resident in the northwest region who had no history of international travel but did travel domestically during the exposure period.
The omicron variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa last month. Maryland reported three cases last week. The variant has been identified in 21 other states, thus far.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before we would record our first Omicron infection in the Commonwealth,” Dr. M. Norman Oliver, the state health commissioner, said in a statement.
The majority of current infections are driven by the highly transmissible delta variant. Nationwide, health officials are studying how easily the omicron variant spreads and how sick it can make people.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told WTOP last week that although the latest variant is of some concern, it’s “nothing to panic about right now,” as scientists do not know everything about it yet. At this time, there is no evidence that the omicron variant causes more severe disease, but evidence suggests that those who have had COVID-19 might be at greater risk for reinfection with the omicron variant, the Virginia Health Department said.
In the meantime, Virginia health officials are encouraging vaccinations and boosters. It’s unclear whether omicron is more transmissible or evades vaccine-induced immunity.
“We have very effective vaccines that can interrupt the chain of transmission and reduce the odds that unpredictable mutations like the Delta and Omicron variants will emerge,” Oliver said.
Below is a map of Virginia’s health planning regions.
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