Brief

Omicron reaches Wisconsin, state health agency reports

By: - December 6, 2021 1:43 pm
Photo contains a COVID19 face mask, needs, shots and vials of the vaccine

Nataliya Vaitkevich | Pexels

Less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first drew attention to the omicron variant of the virus responsible for COVID-19, the first cases connected to Wisconsin have surfaced, according to the state health department.

On Saturday, the Department of Health Services (DHS) reported that a Milwaukee County resident has been found to be positive for the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The adult male had recently returned from South Africa, where the omicron variant had been observed through laboratory analysis earlier in November. The variant has since been detected in as many as two dozen other countries. The CDC classified it as a “variant of concern” on Nov. 30.

“The Omicron variant contains a concerning number of mutations to the spike protein” that is present on the outside of the virus, according to a DHS statement. Those mutations in previous variants of the virus “have been associated with increased transmissibility and antibody resistance.”

While the case reported on Saturday is the first of a Wisconsin resident connected with the omicron variant, DHS reported on Friday that five California residents who attended a Milwaukee County wedding on Nov. 27 were found to be infected with the omicron variant by a lab in California.

They were among 12 California residents who attended the wedding and were confirmed to have COVID-19. DHS and the Milwaukee Health Department are investigating the COVID-19 outbreak associated with the wedding.

The DHS announcement on Saturday stated that it would be several weeks before scientists know how transmissible omicron is, the severity of the disease that it causes or how effective vaccines or treatments are in combating the new version of the virus.

To reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, DHS is urging people to get vaccinated or, if fully vaccinated, to get a booster shot when they are eligible. The agency also recommends that people wear masks indoors when in public places, stay home if they feel sick, wash their hands frequently and get tested for COVID-19 if they experience symptoms or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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