TAMPA, Fla. — The first confirmed case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the state of Florida has been reported at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, according to the Veterans Administration.
Hospital officials confirmed the diagnosis Tuesday.
"Yes, we can confirm the detection of a case of the B.1.1.529 Omicron variant. The patient is experiencing mild symptoms and had recently returned from international travel. Our providers were able to quickly detect, test, confirm and add this data to our developing understanding of this strain," the VA said in a statement to ABC Action News.
Health officials have said it was only a matter of time before the omicron variant was found in Florida. The variant was first detected in South Africa around November 21. Since then, it's spread rapidly in South Africa and has been found in multiple countries around the world and in multiple states in this country.
"What’s worrying people is it’s got a lot of mutations so it’s looking like the antibodies from natural infection, vaccine and even some of the monoclonal antibodies aren’t going to be as powerful against the virus so that’s the part we’re worried about. So far, the cases seem to be pretty mild," said Dr. Kami Kim, the Director of Infectious Diseases & International Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
Researchers are still trying to determine how virulent the omicron variant is and if it is as deadly as the delta variant. Preliminary research showed the variant may be more transmissible than others, but the World Health Organization hasn't definitively said how virulent the variant has become.
Additionally, new reporting from the Guardian said scientists have discovered a "stealth" version of the omicron variant. According to the Guardian, the newer omicron variant was detected in samples from South Africa, Canada, and Australia.
Officials with the Florida Department of Health said a second case has been confirmed by the CDC in St. Lucie County.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said in a statement, "Our teams conducted contact tracing to identify possible exposures and advise on necessary isolation and quarantine protocols."