Coronavirus Outbreak

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

BLACK HAWK COUNTY — Iowa reports an unvaccinated child has tested positive with the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the state's first confirmed case.

The Iowa Department of Public Health said Thursday the detection of the omicron variant, initially discovered in Africa, is the state’s first to be identified.

The individual is unvaccinated and under the age of 18. They had recent travel exposure, but the department didn’t say where the child had traveled.

The child is asymptomatic, but their family sought testing based on public health guidance due to recent travel.

Kelly Garcia, the interim director of the state public health department, encouraged Iowans to continue to get vaccinated, and also to receive booster doses.

“There is emerging evidence that a booster dose of vaccine offers protection against omicron, which is great news,” she said. “Vaccinated Iowans who have not yet received a booster should do so as soon as possible.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the variant was first detected on Nov. 11 in Botswana. The delta variant continues to be the main variant circulating in the United States, they said. Iowa becomes the 22nd state to confirm the presence of the variant. At least 57 countries have reported finding the variant.

Omicron is believed to spread more easily than the original coronavirus, but it's not yet known how much more easily it spreads compared to the delta variant, the CDC says.

The CDC says more data is needed to determine whether omicron is more severe. The agency says vaccines are expected to still protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and death.

Pfizer, the company that manufacturers one of the three COVID-19 vaccines most prevalent in the United States, said lab tests showed its booster shot increased antibodies by 25-fold. It recommended those who had received two doses of their vaccine to receive a booster shoot as concerns of omicron mount.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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