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First case of omicron variant detected in Wisconsin, health officials say

Gov. Tony Evers urged more vaccination to ward off the variant's spread.

OPED-HILTZIK-COLUMN-CORONAVIRUS-ZUM.jpg
An image from an electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Contributed / NIAID-RML/Zuma Press/TNS
TNS

Wisconsin health officials have detected the state's first case of the newly identified omicron variant, the Department of Health Services said Saturday.

A resident who had recently traveled to South Africa was the first person in the state to test positive for the new variant, which was discovered on Nov. 30, DHS said.

In response to the development, Gov. Tony Evers urged more vaccination to ward off the variant's spread.

"Now is the time to double down on our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant," Evers said in a statement. "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."

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious than previous strains, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

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The World Health Organization has said that the earliest known omicron cases caused mild symptoms, though they were detected in university students who have generally a lower risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

On Friday, state health officials said five people from California had tested positive for the omicron variant after attending a wedding in Milwaukee County over Thanksgiving weekend.

The five people with confirmed omicron cases are part of a group of 12 vaccinated people in Alameda County, California, who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Alameda County Department of Public Health. They are linked to the wedding in Wisconsin, "which one of these individuals attended upon return from international travel," that agency said.

The people were vaccinated and have "mildly symptomatic cases." Genomic sequencing for the remaining seven cases had not yet been completed.

(c)2021 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

Visit The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.) at www.wisconsinstatejournal.com

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