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First Virginia case of COVID Omicron variant diagnosed

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 6:36 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ/VDH Release) - The Virginia Department of Health says the first confirmed case of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of the Northwest Region of Virginia. VDH says he had no history of international travel, but did have a history of domestic travel, during the exposure period. No other specific information has been given about the patient.

The Omicron variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021, says VDH, and may spread more easily than other variants, including Delta. The U.S. government SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group classified Omicron as a Variant of Concern for the U.S. December 1, 2021. At this time, there is no evidence that infection with this variant causes more severe disease, but there is evidence that people who have previously had COVID-19 might be at greater risk for reinfection with Omicron. To date, the Omicron variant has been identified in 21 other U.S. states or jurisdictions.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we would record our first Omicron infection in the Commonwealth,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “This drives home the challenge the COVID-19 virus presents to the world as the virus changes and mutates over time. Scientists are hard at work studying the newly identified variant to understand how easily it spreads and how sick it makes people. Right now, the highly transmissible Delta variant is causing almost all cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. 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. Do your part. Get vaccinated if you are eligible. Get your booster shot if you’re eligible. Vaccination is how Virginia, the U.S. and the world will put this pandemic behind us.”

With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified. For additional information about variants that have been identified in Virginia, visit the VDH Variants dashboard, which is updated weekly on Fridays.

Statement from VDH: Viruses change all the time, and VDH expects to see new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerge as disease spreads. As our public health officials closely monitor the emergence of these SARS-CoV-2 variants in our Commonwealth, it is critical that all Virginians comply with mitigation measures. Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants. This means getting vaccinated for COVID-19 if you are aged 5 years or older and getting a booster dose when you are eligible. Getting vaccinated now as part of the primary series or with a booster dose as soon as you are eligible is strongly encouraged to get your antibody levels as high as possible. Wearing masks correctly, staying at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds or indoor areas with poor airflow, washing hands often, and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 also continue to be important prevention strategies with Omicron.

For more information about COVID-19 variants, visit the VDH Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19 website and the CDC Variants of the Virus website.

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