covid shots

Though not much is known yet about the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, the best strategy remains getting vaccinated.

Colorado health officials announced today, Dec. 2, that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Colorado. It's the third state to detect the variant, behind California and Minnesota.

The case was identified in an adult female resident of Arapahoe County who had recently returned from a vacation to southern Africa.

"She is experiencing minor symptoms and is isolated and recuperating at home," the state said in a release. "She had been fully vaccinated and was eligible for the booster vaccine but had not received it yet."

From the release: "The Colorado State Public Health Laboratory conducted genome sequencing on the specimen and confirmed the presence of the omicron variant. The specimen had the signature S gene target failure diagnostic test profile that has been identified in omicron cases."

The case was discovered through a routine case investigation by Tri-County Health Department. CDPHE’s epidemiologists flagged it for follow-up because of recent travel history. CDPHE sent a team to collect an additional specimen for genome sequencing and has been working closely with Tri-County Health Department on case investigation. People who have recently traveled internationally should be tested three to five days after their return with a molecular or PCR test, regardless of symptoms or vaccination history, the state advised.

CDPHE has issued an isolation order for this case, and close contacts in Colorado have tested negative. The agency is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate the case. CDC is coordinating all travel-associated interstate and international contact tracing efforts and will work with airlines to identify all potentially exposed passengers.

Omicron (B.1.1.529) is a new variant first detected in November in South Africa, and may be responsible for an increase in cases in that country. CDC announced that the California and San Francisco departments of public health confirmed the first case of omicron variant in the United States on Dec. 1 and a second case was identified in Minnesota earlier on Dec. 2.

"There is still a lot to learn about the omicron variant, but due to some of the mutations on the spike protein of the virus, it is possible that omicron might be more transmissible, or immune response may not be as effective," the release said, noting the World Health Organization has classified it as "a variant of concern" for those reasons.

State health officials stressed that all Coloradans ages 5 years and up should get vaccinated. Anyone 18 years or older who has received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago or who has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their initial dose should get a booster shot immediately.

Officials urged residents to follow protective protocols, such as social distancing, washing your hands and wearing masks.

They also urged people to get vaccinated for flu to help reduce impacts on the health care system. 

Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, who develops symptoms should get tested immediately and isolate, officials said. Find a testing spot here.

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.

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