A computer-generated image of the coronavirus. (Getty Images)
The first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in Colorado was identified on Thursday in a woman who recently returned from southern Africa, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“She is experiencing minor symptoms and is isolated and recuperating at home. She had been fully vaccinated and was eligible for the booster vaccine but had not received it yet,” a release from CDPHE said.
State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said the woman, a resident of Arapahoe County, returned to Colorado last week after traveling through several countries in southern Africa. She tested positive one day after coming home when she began experiencing minor symptoms. She has since isolated and her close contacts have all tested negative.
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The case was investigated by the Tri-County Health Department and CDPHE, which flagged the case for further scrutiny due to the woman’s travel history. Scientists confirmed the presence of the omicron variant through full genetic sequencing, one of the ways the state has been monitoring cases for the newly-discovered variant.
Gov. Jared Polis told reporters during a Thursday briefing that at this time, he is not “terribly alarmed,” as the presence of the omicron variant in Colorado had been expected. Cases of the variant have been reported in California and Minnesota as well.
“I’m proud of Colorado and the state lab for being the third state to identify this,” he said. “That doesn’t mean Colorado is the third state that has it. There could be 25 states, there could be all 50 states that have the omicron variant. But we have very good screening and detection in Colorado.”
Colorado is screening about 15% of all cases in the state for the omicron variant, Polis said. It has not yet shown up in wastewater surveillance, indicating that there has not been community transmission yet.
The omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa last week, and Herlihy and Polis reiterated that there is still a lot to learn about the variant’s transmissibility, severity and whether existing vaccines will be effective against it.
“It won’t be long before we have those answers. I expect it will be a matter of weeks, not months until we have initial data that’s meaningful on all those pieces of the puzzle,” Polis said.
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