by Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The first reported case of the Omicron variant has been detected in California by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and announced by U.S health officials on Wednesday. 

The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov.22 and tested positive on Nov.29. The San Francisco health department and California's state health department confirmed the case in a genomic sequencing surveillance. 

U.S health officials say that the individual is self quarantined. All of their close contacts have been notified, and all close contacts thus far have tested negative. According to the president’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, the individual was fully vaccinated and experienced very mild symptoms which are improving as of Wednesday. In a press conference, Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of public health said the infected person received the full dose of Moderna and is not believed to have received a booster shot. 

"This person did what we hope other people would do when they arrive on a flight into the U.S.," Fauci said. "They got off, and as soon as they became symptomatic, they went and got tested and it was positive."

According to Fauci, the CDC is not investigating any other potential omicron cases in the U.S. The CDC’s guidance on masks and vaccines remained the same. Fauci said it was just a matter of time before the variant reached the United States. President Joe Biden and Dr. Fauci urge people to be vigilant about wearing masks, get vaccinated or get a booster shot. 

"There's no doubt that this will end, I promise you that, this will end," Fauci said.

An update on the CDC’s advice on who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster was announced on Monday by the heath agency’s director Rochelle Walensky. 

"Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine," Walensky said. 

The first Omicron case was first reported in South Africa on Nov.11, according to the brief. A total of 26 to 32 protein spikes are identified in the omicron variant which is largest number of mutations across all COVID-19 variants. The mutations have induced fears of easier transmissibility and would most likely to infect people who already had COVID-19.

As a result, the United States closed its borders to travelers from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia to limit spread of a COVID-19 variant. 

“Nobody feels that a travel ban is going to prevent people who are infected from coming to the United States, but we needed to buy some time to prepare and understand what is going on,” Fauci said. 

More information surrounding the transmissibility, the severity of the mutation and the differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations are expected to come in the next two to three weeks according to health officials. 

“There is a lot of information coming out of countries like South Africa that has a larger number of individuals not only who are confirmed, but individuals who are probables, which means they are going to have a lot more experience which we will benefit from here as the weeks go by,” Fauci said. 

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