Alaska’s first case of a new coronavirus variant was detected in an Anchorage resident Monday, the city’s health department said.
The omicron variant was found through genomic sequencing by the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory, the department said in a written statement.
The variant was detected in someone who tested positive for the virus in Anchorage after traveling internationally in November, according to the department.
The variant, first detected globally in November, was classified as a “Variant of Concern,” by the World Health Organization. There are still many unknowns about the nature of omicron, though officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say “current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the omicron variant.”
Despite unknowns surrounding the variant, health officials still continue to emphasize that vaccination, wearing a mask in public and testing can all help slow transmission and lower the chances of a new variant.
“While this case of omicron does not come as a surprise, it is a reminder that we need to remain vigilant to reduce the risk of COVID transmission,” the state’s chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink said in an emailed statement Monday evening.
Zink said Alaskans who have traveled internationally should get tested 3 to 5 days after arriving back in the state, regardless of vaccination or symptoms, though unvaccinated travelers are urged to quarantine for a week after their trip.
A majority of states and more than 60 countries around the globe have detected the variant.
In Washington state, a mutation typical of the variant was found in 13% of 217 new cases Wednesday, after only having detected the variant two weeks before, the New York Times reported this week.
The health department is encouraging both vaccinations and booster shots of the COVID-19, and for those who do test positive to check with a provider about monoclonal antibody treatment.