(WJW) – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says not to let your guard down as the omicron variant, a new strain of COVID-19, spreads internationally.

Fauci appeared on “Weekend TODAY” on Saturday, where he remarked that it was possible the omicron variant is already in the United States.

“I would not be surprised if it is. We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Fauci said.

Scientists in South Africa announced this week that they had detected the B.1.1529 variant, also designated as the omicron variant. News of the discovery has sent governments and financial markets around the world reeling.

The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting on Friday, where B.1.1529 was determined to be a “variant of concern,” or VOC, which a label applied when a particular variant is especially virulent, transmissible or able to defeat public health measures.

U.S. senior administration officials said Friday the U.S. would restrict travel to eight African countries starting Monday due to the variant.