Omicron coronavirus variant detected in Polk County resident


A vial with the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 disease is ready at the vaccination center of the Dron hospital in Tourcoing, northern France, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

POLK COUNTY, Iowa — A Polk County resident has tested positive for the omicron coronavirus variant, health officials announced on Friday.

An adult in Polk County who tested positive is experiencing mild symptoms, according to the Polk County Health Department. The infected person had not been traveling, indicating community spread of the variant in Polk County.

The infected person was vaccinated but had not received a booster shot, officials said. The Polk County Health Department is now working to notify people who were in close contact of the individual.

The omicron variant was first detected in Iowa on Dec. 9, found in a Black Hawk County minor who was asymptomatic. In total, 18 omicron cases have been identified in Iowa and additional confirmations are expected, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced on Friday.

“Iowa, like other states across the nation, has identified omicron variants in both international
travelers and individuals without a history of travel; therefore, Iowans should expect that community spread of the omicron variant is occurring,” the Iowa Department of Public Health said.

More data are needed for health experts to determine exactly how easily the omicron variant spreads, the severity of illness it causes or how well vaccines work against.

South African doctors, where omicron was first discovered, are seeing signs that it causes milder COVID-19 than the delta variant, though it appears to be spreading faster than previous variants. The World Health Organization on Wednesday warned that the omicron variant still poses a risk of severe disease for the elderly and people who have underlying health conditions.

Available COVID-19 vaccines are expected to protect most people against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths from the omicron variant, according to the CDC.

“This is an important reminder to be fully vaccinated including a booster, stay home when you are sick and wear a mask in public,” said Polk County Health Department spokesperson Nola Aigner Davis.

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