An unidentified Los Angeles County resident was in isolation Friday, recovering from what was confirmed as the county’s first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant originally detected in South Africa.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the case late Thursday afternoon, saying the patient is a person who returned to Los Angeles after traveling to South Africa via London on Nov. 22. Health officials said the infection is “most likely travel-related.”
The unidentified person is a fully vaccinated adult who lives in Los Angeles County, health officials said. The person is in isolation, with symptoms that “are improving without medical care.” A “small number” of close contacts in the Los Angeles area have been identified, and so far all have tested negative for the virus and none are showing any symptoms, officials said.
The patient is the second known case of the variant in California. Authorities on Wednesday confirmed the first U.S. case of the variant in a San Francisco resident. U.S. cases have also been confirmed in Minnesota and Colorado.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have always known there would be more mutations, resulting in the possibility of a more dangerous variant than the Delta variant,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “While we can’t know for certain the impact of Omicron at this time, the good news is that we already know how to reduce transmission and slow spread using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“I encourage everyone to take the steps that we know offer protection, including getting vaccinated or boosted, testing if you fell sick or are a close contact, and wearing your mask indoors and at large mega events.”
It’s still unknown if the Omicron variant is more transmissible than other COVID strains, or if it causes more serious illness or can evade protections of current vaccines. The variant, however, is blamed for a rapid spike in cases in South Africa.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement she was “grateful” for the local testing capabilities that quickly identified the local Omicron patient.
“We are fortunate to have a significant infrastructure in place that is ready to respond, including widespread and accessible vaccinations, a masking requirement indoors and at outdoor mega events, and instituting vaccine verification at high-risk areas,” Solis said. “I strongly encourage all Los Angeles County residents to get vaccinated, and when eligible, get a booster immediately. This will help provide us with greater protection in the community and slow the spread of COVID-19 and all of its variants.”