DPHHS confirms state’s first COVID-19 case caused by Omicron variant
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MONTANA — On Dec. 20 the Department of Public Health and Human Services officials have detected the Omicron variant through testing of positive COVID-19 samples from two Montana residents in their 30s with travel history to South Africa. The variant was confirmed through genomic sequencing performed at the Montana State Public Health Laboratory and at Montana State University.
The individuals, who had mild symptoms that are improving, are self-isolating and have been since returning to Montana. They are residents of Gallatin County and were fully vaccinated.
“This is not a surprise as nearly every other state has reported Omicron cases in recent weeks,” DPHHS Director Adam Meier said. “We continue to urge all Montanans to use all available tools to stay healthy this winter, including getting your COVID-19 vaccine and booster and taking other measures to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Montana is the 46th state with a confirmed COVID-19 case caused by the Omicron variant.
DPHHS continues to conduct sequencing of COVID-19 samples for variant strains. In addition to the DPHHS Public Health Laboratory, three additional partner laboratories (UM, MSU and FYR Diagnostics) in Montana are conducting sequencing testing of positive COVID-19 specimens to support surveillance efforts of COVID-19 variants.
While Omicron is classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a Variant of Concern, scientists are still working to determine how it may compare with the predominant Delta variant in terms of transmissibility and disease severity. Scientists also are studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against Omicron. The COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant.
Despite the detection of Omicron, Delta remains the predominant strain in the United States and in Montana. “The concern right now for public health officials is that other states in the U.S. are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, which are primarily the Delta variant,” said Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek, acting State Medical Officer at DPHHS. “Given this activity around the country, it’s important that we exercise caution and take proven steps to prevent disease and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 here in Montana.”
To that end, DPHHS encourages all Montanans to take the following steps to protect themselves from becoming infected with COVID-19, including variants like Omicron:
Get vaccinated and if eligible get a booster. To find a vaccine near you, visit: covidvaccine.mt.gov.
Eligible Montanans who haven’t gotten vaccinated and still have questions, should consult with their healthcare provider.
Take steps to help prevent the spread of the virus such as using face masks, physical distancing, practicing hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
Get tested for COVID-19 when you feel sick or have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus. Stay home when you are sick.