Lab testing confirms state’s first COVID-19 case of Omicron variant

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contract lab has found the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as Omicron in a specimen from an Alabama resident.

The person with the Omicron variant is a resident of the West Central Public Health District. The individualdeveloped mild symptoms in early December and sought COVID-19 testing. No travel history was reported outside of Alabama.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world. Alabamians know what to do to keep each other safe now — get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and get a booster. Together, we can fight this virus and help keep our residents safe.”

While Omicron is classified by the CDC as a Variant of Concern, scientists are still working to determine how it may compare with the predominant Delta variant in terms of transmissibility and disease severity. Scientists also are studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against Omicron.

Dr. Harris said this new finding underscores the importance of continued efforts by all Alabamians to limit the spread of COVID-19 in any form.

“We still have more to learn about Omicron, but the most important thing we can do right now is to use the tools we have available to make it as hard as possible for this virus to spread,” he said. “In addition to vaccination and boosters, we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate.”

Meanwhile, health officials urge the public to take the following steps to protect against COVID-19, including variants like Omicron:

· Get vaccinated and if eligible get a booster. To find a vaccine near you, visit www.vaccines.gov

· Wear well-fitting masks in indoor public settings and crowded outdoor settings.

· Stay at least 6 feet from other people, especially if you are at higher risk of getting very sick.

· Get tested if you have symptoms, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, have traveled or have been in a setting where you may have been exposed.

· Stay home if you are sick.

· Wash hands frequently.

· Stay away from crowds.

· Improve ventilation in your home and workplace.

· Take extra care to avoid exposure to the virus if you have underlying risk factors or live with someone who does.

Visit www.alabamapublichealth.govfor more information on COVID-19.

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