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Omicron variant detected in U.S. for first time, Fauci announces

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Omicron variant detected in U.S. for first time, Fauci announces
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci answers the media's questions on the Omicron variant in the White House Briefing Room on Wednesday. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Public health official Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday confirmed that the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified in the United States.

Speaking during a White House press briefing, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser said the case was found in California.

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Fauci said the patient traveled from South Africa to San Francisco on Nov. 22 and tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

"The individual is self-quarantining and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts, thus far, have tested negative," Fauci said. "The individual was fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, which are improving at this point. So this is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant detected in the United States."

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The World Health Organization designated Omicron a "variant of concern" Friday after it was first identified in South Africa. The organization said Omicron has a large number of mutations and may spread at faster rates than other variants.

News of the variant's spread prompted countries across the globe to shut down travel from certain areas of Africa, though it has been detected in European countries.

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Biden on Monday sought to calm fears about the new variant, saying that current vaccines should be adequate to combat Omicron.

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"We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, best scientists, and we're learning more every single day, and we'll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion," Biden said.

Omicron is a "cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Vaccine makers announced Friday that they are testing their COVID-19 vaccines against the new variant, saying it may require new boosters that can target the strain.

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