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First case of omicron COVID variant identified in the US

Get vaccinated and get boosted, says Dr. Fauci.

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A traveler returning from South Africa has tested positive for the omicron variant.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The first confirmed US case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified in California, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a White House briefing Wednesday. The infected person arrived in the US from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29, Fauci said.

"Genomic sequencing was conducted at the University of California at San Francisco, and the sequence was confirmed at the CDC as being consistent with the omicron variant," said Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. 

Read more: New US travel ban for omicron variant: What it means

The person was fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine -- but had not had a booster shot -- and experienced only mild symptoms that are now improving. They are quarantining, and all close contacts have so far tested negative, Fauci said. The person is a resident of San Francisco between the ages of 18 and 49, and was not hospitalized, California Governor Gavin Newsom said during a press conference Wednesday.

"We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of omicron would be detected in the United States," Fauci said.

Fauci reiterated that within the next three weeks, there will be a lot more information about the transmissibility and severity of this strain of the disease, as well as the effectiveness of vaccinations and booster shots against the omicron variant. The new variant was first identified in South Africa in late November.

The omicron variant was identified by UCSF at around 4am Wednesday morning, it confirmed during a press conference with San Francisco Mayor London Breed. California will increase COVID-19 testing at airports for arrivals from countries identified by the CDC.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.