First case of omicron variant identified in Michigan

The first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was detected Thursday in a fully vaccinated Kent County resident more than a week after he was first reported in the United States on December 1.

Western Michigan a patient tested positive for COVID-19 on December 3, and genomic sequencing confirmed it to be the highly contagious variant of omicron and was reported to the state on Thursday, according to a statement from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Vaccination records indicate the Kent County adult was fully immunized but did not receive a booster dose, the state department of health statement said.

Michigan became at least the 22nd state to report the variant. Omicron was named and designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on November 26, about two weeks after it was first detected in Botswana and South Africa.

“We are concerned, unsurprisingly, about the discovery of the omicron variant in Michigan,” Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

“We continue to urge Michiganders aged 5 and over to get vaccinated and to continue participating in the measures we know of to slow the spread of the virus by wearing properly fitted masks, distancing themselves socially, avoiding crowds, washing our hands often and testing for COVID-19. Vaccines are our best defense against the virus and the way we can manage the spread of COVID-19. ”

Hertel is expected to hold a press conference on Friday morning to discuss the new variant, according to a media advisory.

Detection of the new variant in Michigan came as the state grapples with a spike in COVID-19 cases testing the capacity of hospitals. On Wednesday, the state’s health department reported that 4,419 adults had been hospitalized with confirmed viral infections, the highest number in the pandemic to date.

The increase in the number of cases of delta variants is still the most overwhelming factor Michigan faces, said Dr Abdul El-Sayed, epidemiologist and former director of health for the city of Detroit.

The precautions people should take for dealing with the delta variant are the same ones they should take for omicron, he said, including getting three doses of the vaccine and wearing a mask inside.

“However, we are thinking about COVID – and trust me I feel very good with COVID – COVID is not done with us,” El-Sayed said.

Michigan Medical Director Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian noted that unvaccinated residents are “disproportionately affected by this virus” and that the side effects of “COVID-19 are much worse than receiving a vaccine.”

The state health department is coordinating with the Kent County health department to investigate the omicron case in western Michigan. They will assess the potential for out-of-state exposure, adherence to isolation guidelines and awareness of close contacts, according to the state health department.

“The identification of the omicron variant is not unexpected,” said Dr Adam London, director of the Kent County Department of Health. “… We continue to urge people to get vaccinated and receive their boosters as soon as they are eligible. ”

About 62% of Michigan’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, according to the state’s immunization tracking website. Approximately 1.6 million recalls have been administered, the majority in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

Pfizer said on Wednesday that a booster of its COVID-19 vaccine could offer significant protection against the new omicron variant even if the initial two doses appear significantly less effective.

Although two doses may not be strong enough to prevent infection, lab tests have shown a 25-fold boost in levels of antibodies capable of fighting omicron, said Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. For people who have yet to receive a booster, the companies said two doses should still prevent serious illness or death.

Pronounced “OH-mee-kraan”, it is named after a letter of the Greek alphabet and carries over 50 mutations never seen before.

The variant probably spreads more easily than the original coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but no evidence has emerged that it causes more serious illness or increases the risk of hospitalization in infected people.

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