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Omicron variant of COVID-19 detected in North Dakota

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The state health department has confirmed four cases of the variant.

The state health department has detected North Dakota’s first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The cases were discovered through the department’s genome sequencing process of laboratory tests.

Kirby Kruger is director of Disease Control.

"On December 19, the North Dakota Department of Health laboratory confirmed four cases of Omicron variant in North Dakota, and all of these cases occurred in adults. All of the cases had symptoms, none of the cases were hospitalized. Three of the four cases were vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, but were not boosted. None of the cases were reinfections. Two of the cases had history of travel; they traveled together domestically. And two cases had no travel history and were not related to each other, indicating that community transmission had occurred in North Dakota."

Two cases were confirmed in Ward County, one in Burleigh County, and one in Cass County.

Kruger says there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the Omicron variant, but early data is suggesting that a full course of vaccination plus a booster dose offers significant protection. He also says prior infection is not providing as much protection as with other variants, and it’s looking like two out of three types of monoclonal anti-body therapies aren’t as effective against Omicron. The variant is also far more contagious, with the number of cases typically doubling every three days.

Kruger says ahead of the holidays, health officials are encouraging vaccine boosters and smaller gatherings to limit spread.

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