Utah confirms first COVID-19 case of omicron variant

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah has confirmed its first COVID-19 case of the omicron variant in a patient who traveled to South Africa, state health officials announced Friday.

The positive case was discovered in an older adult who lives in the southwestern part of the state. The infected patient is fully vaccinated, has received monoclonal antibody treatment and is experiencing mild symptoms, the state health department said in a statement.

Health officials said the case was detected through ongoing genetic sequencing of positive COVID-19 samples at the Utah Public Health Laboratory.

Omicron variant cases have also been found in Colorado, Minnesota, New York and Hawaii.

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.

The coronavirus is continually evolving, but most mutations are inconsequential. At this point, scientists are trying to figure out 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.