A health official in San Francisco, California, said the first confirmed U.S. patient with the Omicron COVID-19 variant is doing well.
San Francisco health officer Dr. Susan Philip told news outlets Thursday that “this first individual is doing well” and there are no signs the variant was further transmitted. The patient’s identity, including age, has not been disclosed.
“We’re so happy to hear that and they absolutely contributed to our understanding in San Francisco, and nationally, because they came to our attention, they reported their symptoms and they called us at public health so that we could start the laboratory process to detect the first case in the U.S.,” she told CNN.
Philip said that San Francisco officials are still investigating how the individual contracted the Omicron variant, which was described as one of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week, sparking fresh global alarm as governments around the world moved to implement travel restrictions and new shutdown orders.
So far, no deaths reports associated with Omicron have been confirmed.
“This is the first case detected, it almost certainly is not the first case in the U.S.,” she said, adding that she and other health officials sought to notify California health officials as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other than the United States, a number of European countries have reported the new strain, which WHO stated may be more infectious than previous variants. It’s not clear if Omicron can cause severe symptoms, however, and a top South African doctor who helped alert the public to its presence said that Omicron patients being treated in her country are showing “extremely mild” and unusual symptoms.
And top drug developers, including Oxford University, said there is “no evidence” to suggest that Omicron will breach vaccines.
But nonetheless, the European Union’s public health agency this week announced that Omicron could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months, lending weight to preliminary information about its high transmissibility.
South Africa said it was seeing an increase in COVID-19 reinfections in patients contracting Omicron—with people who have already had the illness getting infected again—in a way that it did not see with other variants.
In Germany, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel announced harsh new measures that include barring unvaccinated individuals from accessing all but the most essential businesses, including supermarkets and pharmacies. Merkel and other German leaders said they would also restrict the number of people from large events including soccer matches and concerts. It’s not clear how long the restrictions will last.
Earlier this week, the CDC said that it would deploy more COVID-19 surveillance at four major U.S. airports due to the emergence of the variant. That includes Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, and San Francisco International Airport, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters.
Reuters contributed to this report.