Georgia woman tests positive for omicron variant

ATLANTA — Health officials say a woman from Georgia has tested positive for the omicron variant. The Georgia Department of Public Health said she is currently in isolation after traveling to New Jersey.

DPH said the person “recently traveled from South Africa and was in Georgia for two days before traveling on to New Jersey where the testing and sequencing were done.”

Health officials said the person was also fully vaccinated.

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The New Jersey Department of Health said the woman has experienced moderate symptoms and is now recovering after receiving care in a North Jersey emergency department.

“Vaccination and boosters are key to preventing further transmission of COVID-19 and help prevent new variants like omicron from emerging,” said Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Only 51% of Georgians are fully vaccinated and of those individuals less than 20% have received booster doses.”

DPH said contact tracing is underway in New Jersey and in Georgia to identify close contacts at risk of infection. So far, no additional omicron cases in Georgia have been identified.

The omicron variant has been detected in multiple U.S. states, including New York, California, Colorado and others. Scientists said that shows yet again how mutations of the virus can circumnavigate the globe with speed and ease.

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Health officials in each state said there was no cause for undue alarm. But the spread of the cases, some involving people who hadn’t been away from home recently, meant the variant was likely already circulating domestically in some parts of the U.S.

Omicron is classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern” as scientists work to determine how it may compare with the predominant delta variant in terms of transmissibility and severity. Scientists also are studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against omicron.

Scientists in South Africa first reported it, but the samples came from several countries in southern Africa. And health officials in the Netherlands now say it was found there prior to the South Africa detection.

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As comfort over air travel returns, it’s inevitable that new variants like omicron will spread from country to country and state to state, said professor Danielle Ompad, an epidemiologist at New York University’s School of Global Public Health.

“We shouldn’t panic, but we should be concerned,” she said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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