Wisconsin's first official case of the COVID-19 omicron variant has been discovered

·3 min read

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has detected a case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in Wisconsin for the first time, according to a news release Saturday evening.

"To date, one case of the Omicron variant has been identified in a specimen from a Wisconsin resident with recent travel history to South Africa," the news release said.

South Africa is where the omicron variant was first discovered in November, according to the news release. The first case of the omicron variant in the U.S. was confirmed Wednesday in California after a traveler flew into San Francisco from South Africa.

The Wisconsinite with the omicron variant is a Milwaukee County man who was fully vaccinated and had received a booster dose, the news release said. His symptoms were mild and no hospitalization has been required.

“We’ve been prepared for this news and will continue trusting the science to help keep Wisconsinites and our communities healthy and safe,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a news release. “Now is the time to double down on our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. I urge all eligible Wisconsinites to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose as soon as possible and to follow the latest public health guidance.”

Omicron is the newest variant of concern, the news release said. Variants of concern "show evidence of being more contagious, causing more severe illness, or resistance to diagnostics, treatments, or vaccines."

While there are many unanswered questions about omicron, health officials will know more about the transmission and severity of the variant in the next few weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said at a Friday news conference.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said "our recommendations for protecting against COVID remain the same regardless of the variant," a Friday USA Today report said.

“With the detection of Omicron in Wisconsin, Wisconsinites should stay vigilant in their efforts to stay healthy and to help prevent further strain on our heavily burdened hospital system,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in the news release. "As we learn more about this variant and how easily it spreads, it’s crucial that all Wisconsinites continue to practice good public health safety measures like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, staying home if you’re sick, and getting tested."

According to the news release, Wisconsin's first omicron case is not related to the COVID-19 outbreak that DHS and the City of Milwaukee Health Department announced they were investigating Friday.

Five of 12 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 after attending a Milwaukee County wedding Nov. 27 were infected with the omicron variant. According to DHS, one of the individuals attended the wedding after returning from international travel. All 12 are California residents who attended the event.

Drake Bentley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Contact Hannah Kirby at hannah.kirby@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin's first official case of the omicron variant identified

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