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Omicron variant detected in unvaccinated Hawaii resident

December 3, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — The omicron coronavirus variant was confirmed Thursday in an unvaccinated Hawaii resident with no recent travel history, state health officials said.

The adult had been infected with COVID-19 a year ago, isn’t currently hospitalized and had “mild-to-moderate” symptoms, including headache, body aches and cough, Hawaii Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said.

She wouldn’t identify the patient other than to say the person lives on the island of Oahu.

The news came as multiple cases of the omicron variant have been detected in other states, including Minnesota and California.

The U.S. earlier this week announced its first known case of the variant in a vaccinated California resident who had recently traveled to South Africa.

Scientists are trying to determine whether omicron spreads more easily or causes more severe disease than the delta variant that now dominates in the U.S. They are also studying how well the current vaccines work against it.

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Scientists in South Africa first reported it, but the samples came from several countries in southern Africa. And health officials in the Netherlands now say it was found there prior to the South Africa detection.

Given the realities of international travel, scientists said it was inevitable that the omicron variant would be discovered in the U.S., and they believe it may have been spreading in the country before it was detected.

Kemble said it was only a matter of time before the variant was detected in Hawaii and that there are likely more cases in the state.

“The implication is that there has been some transmission in the community before this came to our attention,” she said. “Whether that was a single linkage back to a traveler or several degrees of separation, at this point, we do not know that.”