Omicron variant in Southern Utah: What you need to know

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – Public health officials are contact tracing and doing disease surveillance after the first Omicron variant case was reported to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department on Friday.

An older, fully vaccinated resident in Southwest Utah is quarantining and received monoclonal antibody treatment after testing positive for the Omicron variant.

“This was a person who had traveled to South Africa, and as they returned only experienced mild illness, none of the close contacts have tested positive thus far,” says David Heaton, the spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.

The Utah Department of Health announced Friday the breakthrough case was discovered through ongoing genetic sequencing of positive COVID-19 samples.

“The disclaimer is we don’t know exactly how this will affect other countries, other states, or southwestern Utah for that matter, but trends in South Africa are a little bit optimistic,” says Heaton.

Heaton says while Omicron is spreading faster than previous variants in South Africa, it’s not overwhelming the healthcare system.

“This may be what we’ve been looking for in the pandemic, meaning there’s mutations to where it spreads quicker but it’s less severe,” says Heaton.

Heaton says the Delta variant is still the most prominent.

“Even though this person is fully vaccinated, their illness was mild which is an indication either that this is a milder disease, and or vaccines again even if you do get infected, keep you from getting seriously ill or hospitalized,” he says.

Heaton adds monoclonal antibody treatment is available for qualifying residents in Southern Utah. Officials are also recommending masking up and getting a booster shot, that’s available now for anyone above the age of 18.

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