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First case of COVID-19 omicron variant identified in Illinois

Broome County Health officials said the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in...
Broome County Health officials said the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in a person who traveled internationally.(MGN)
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 5:34 PM CST
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CHICAGO (WGEM) - The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced Illinois’ first known COVID-19 case caused by the omicron COVID-19 variant (B.1.1.529).

The illness was identified in a Chicago resident and known contact of a confirmed Omicron case from another state who visited Chicago. The Chicago resident – fully vaccinated with a booster dose – did not require hospitalization, is improving and has been self-isolating since their symptoms began.

“Scientists need time to learn more about the omicron COVID-19 variant, but in the meantime, we already know how to be vigilant,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “So, get your vaccine, get your booster, wear your mask indoors, wash your hands, and get tested for COVID-19 if you feel sick or have been exposed to someone who tested positive. I encourage all Illinois residents to make a plan for how to best protect themselves and their loved ones, especially in the holiday season.”

South African authorities were the first to report the omicron variant to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24, with retroactive testing confirming the variant to be present in Europe at least five days prior. The variant has been found in more than three dozen countries worldwide.

It contains a large number of mutations and has been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The first case in the United States was reported Dec. 1, and both travel-associated and non-travel-associated cases have subsequently been reported from multiple U.S. states. While there are concerns about how quickly this variant has emerged and spread, much remains to be learned about how it behaves.

“Public health experts and scientists worldwide continue to study the newest variant, omicron, to determine if it spreads more easily, causes more severe illness, and how effective the current vaccines are against it,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “While we don’t have all the answers right now, we know the general prevention strategies we’ve been recommending – vaccination, boosters, masking, testing, physical distancing – are our best protection against the virus and its variants. As long as the virus continues to circulate, it has the potential to mutate into new variants. Vaccination can help stop circulation, but we need more people to get vaccinated.”

IDPH laboratories continue to perform genomic sequencing of positive specimens to identify any variants, including omicron. IDPH has renewed its ask for hospitals across Illinois and laboratories to increase the number of positive specimens they send to the IDPH labs for sequencing.

To find the most recent updates on COVID-19 and the omicron variant, or to find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine, visit https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19.html.

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