CDC expects to identify omicron COVID-19 variant ‘quickly’ if it arrives in the United States

The CDC made the announcement shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the omicron variant, or B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern. (Getty Images)

ATLANTA (WFLA) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring the emergence of a new highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 identified in South Africa.

The CDC said that “if” this variant – known as the omicron variant – emerges in the United States, it should be identified “quickly.”

“No case of this variant has been identified in the United States to date,” the CDC wrote in a statement on Friday. “The CDC is following the details of this new variant, first reported to WHO by South Africa. We are grateful to the South African government and its scientists who have openly communicated with the global scientific community and continue to share information on this variant with the US Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC. We are working with other public health and industry partners in the United States and around the world to learn more about this variant, while continuing to monitor its progress.

“The CDC is constantly monitoring variants and the US Variant Monitoring System has reliably detected new variants in this country. We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the United States.

The CDC made the announcement shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the omicron variant, or B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern. Health experts say the mutated properties of the variant allowed it to spread rapidly among younger individuals, causing COVID-19 levels to rise rapidly in South Africa after a period of poor growth.

Such concerns have prompted the United States and the European Union to enact a travel ban from South Africa and other countries to contain the virus. However, experts say these bans will not stop the virus from reaching the West.

“Travel restrictions may delay but not prevent the spread of a highly transmissible variant,” Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh, said in an Associated Press report.

In the meantime, the CDC continues to urge mask wear, social distancing and vaccinations to protect against COVID-19 variants. Travelers to the United States

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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