First case of COVID-19 omicron variant detected in Anchorage resident

Unvaccinated international travelers advised to quarantine for seven days upon return to United States
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 4:30 PM AKST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2021 at 5:30 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage health officials say a case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in an Anchorage resident.

The variant was detected in an Anchorage resident on Monday, according to a press release from the Anchorage Health Department, through genomic sequencing performed at the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory. The person in question had recently tested positive in Anchorage, the health department said, after having traveled internationally in November.

“Alaska now joins at least 30 other states and more than 60 countries” that have detected the omicron variant, the department said in its release.

“Protective measures against the variant remain the same as for the other COVID virus variants,” the release states. “The Anchorage Health Department (AHD) in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) encourages Alaskans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they haven’t already done so and to get boosted if you’re eligible.”

The state’s coronavirus response hub lists one case of the omicron variant on its case dashboard. The state health department acknowledged the case in an email Monday evening, using the same language as the release from the Anchorage Health Department.

“While this case of Omicron does not come as a surprise, it is a reminder that we need to remain vigilant to reduce the risk of COVID transmission,” said Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink in a statement provided by the state health department. “Vaccination, including getting a booster dose if you’re eligible, remains our best defense against COVID-19 and the variants. Alaskans who have recently traveled internationally should be tested 3-5 days after their return, regardless of symptoms or vaccination history. Unvaccinated international travelers are advised to quarantine for 7 days upon their return to the United States.”

The omicron variant was first detected in Botswana on Nov. 11 and in South Africa on Nov. 14, and was been designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26. The first case of the omicron variant in the United States was confirmed on Dec. 1.

“Layering on other protective measures, including masking, handwashing, physical distancing and testing can also help to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus, including Omicron,” the release from the city and state health departments states. “If you test positive, please talk to your doctor to see if you might be eligible and could benefit from monoclonal antibody treatment.”

The chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that many cases of the omicron variant in the U.S. have so far appeared to be mild. Health experts are still trying to learn more about how quickly the omicron variant spreads, and how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is against it.

“We don’t know many things about this,” Zink said at the end of November. “We don’t know if it’s more transmissible. We don’t know if it makes you more sick, we don’t know if it makes you less sick. We don’t know if the vaccines will work just as well, or if they won’t work quite as well. We don’t know if our treatments will work the same or not.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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