TULSA, Okla. — The first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant was confirmed Wednesday in California.
Oklahoma health experts said it's a matter of time before it's identified in Oklahoma.
There are still many unknowns about the omicron variant, but Oklahoma health experts are closely monitoring it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said the patient who tested positive returned from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive a week later.
California is hundreds of miles away, but health experts said, for a virus that's not far.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to find it here in the very near future and you know, it’s one of those things that we know how highly transmissible it is, we know how fast it moves so, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that it could possibly be in Oklahoma already,” Bruce Dart, executive director for the Tulsa Health Department.
Before it reached California, OU Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said scientists in Botswana were the first to identify omicron, which the world health organization labels "a variant of concern."
“It has 50 different mutations from the original virus that came into the United States from China,” Dr. Bratzler said. “In the laboratory, there is real concern that with all of the mutations that you see on this particular variant that the antibodies that are in your blood after you get vaccinated may not be as effective as they were with previous strands of the virus.”
Dart said 67.8 percent of people in Tulsa County have at least one dose of the vaccine. He said 56 percent are fully vaccinated.
"Even if the vaccines don't completely protect you against the Omicron variant, they will do things that we see all the time, which reduce the chance of being hospitalized or having severe complications, so I strongly encourage people to get the primary vaccine series and then to get the booster," Dr. Bratzler said.
Dr. Bratzler said most companies that make the vaccines are conducting tests right now to see if the vaccine protection from severe illness upholds.
While health experts continue learning about the omicron variant, they encourage people to continue wearing a mask, washing their hands, and social distancing.
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