Omicron in Florida: State’s first case of new strain reported in Tampa

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s first confirmed case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been reported at a Tampa hospital.

A spokesperson for James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa confirmed the case in a statement to WFLA.

“The patient is experiencing mild symptoms and had recently returned from international travel,” the spokeswoman said. “Our providers were able to quickly detect, test, confirm and add this data to our developing understanding of this strain.”

The email did not mention the patient’s vaccination status. The spokeswoman told News Channel 8 that vaccines are “the best tool we have to ensure the public’s continued health.”

“It is critical for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said. “While no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing illness, the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. provide excellent protection against the COVID-19 variants that have caused surges in the United States so far and are particularly effective in preventing severe illness or death from COVID-19.”

The B.1.1.529 variant, widely known as omicron, was first identified by scientists in South Africa. Cases have been detected in several states including New York, California and Texas.

The Associated Press reported that scientists expressed concern about the new variant due to the high number of mutations in the virus’ spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads. In an attempt to combat omicron spreading in the United States, President Joe Biden announced travel restrictions for several countries.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert and chief medical advisor to the president, said this week that early indications suggest omicron may be less dangerous than the delta variant.

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