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First case of COVID-19 omicron variant confirmed in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health said it has confirmed Utah’s first case of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.

A news release said genetic sequencing of COVID-19 samples done at the Utah Public Health Laboratory found the variant.

The person who tested positive recently returned to Utah after a trip to South Africa.

“The person is fully vaccinated, received monoclonal antibody treatment, and is recovering at home after experiencing only mild symptoms,” The release said. “The UDOH conducted a thorough case investigation, including identifying any close contacts of the case.” The patient is an older adult who lives in the Southwest Utah Public Health District. The UDOH said the person and their close contacts have cooperated with the department by following isolation, quarantine, and testing recommendations.

“Given the high number of Utahns traveling in and out of the state, it is not surprising the Omicron variant has been found in Utah,” said Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist at the UDOH. “The discovery of this case does not change the way Utah residents should protect themselves, but reinforces that we all need to take this virus seriously. Please take action to protect yourself. Get vaccinated and get a booster dose when you qualify, wear a mask in crowded, indoor settings, get tested early if you have symptoms, and stay home if you are sick or test positive.”

Health officials said more time and research are needed before they know how well the vaccine works against omicron, whether it’s more contagious, and if it causes more severe disease.

The CDC recommended that international travelers who are unvaccinated stay isolated for seven days following a trip.  All travelers should get tested within five days of their return to Utah.

The release said vaccination shots and boosters are still the best protection against COVID-19.

The CDC and the UDOH strongly recommend adults 18 and older get booster doses when they are eligible (6 months after receiving their Pfizer or Moderna shots, or 2 months after receiving their Johnson & Johnson shot), according to the release.

It’s also recommended to get a COVID-19 test as soon as you feel symptoms. The release said that can allow for treatment with monoclonal antibodies, and potentially with antiviral pills that are awaiting FDA authorization.

Coronavirus Resources

Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing social@ksl.com.

Click here to sign up for a vaccine and here to see how Utah’s vaccine rollout is progressing.

The latest COVID-19 stories from KSL can be found here.

How do I prevent it?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

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