DENVER — Colorado has its first cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19, identified in individuals from Arapahoe and Boulder counties who recently traveled to southern Africa, according to health officials.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced the first case, a woman in Arapahoe County, moments before Gov. Jared Polis held a briefing on Thursday afternoon.
Boulder County reported the second case, in an individual who recently traveled to South Africa, on Friday. That person was isolating, and Boulder County Public Health said it was working with CDPHE to notify close contacts.
The Arapahoe County woman was experiencing minor symptoms and was isolated and recuperating at home, CDPHE said in a release. She is fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster but hasn't received it yet, the health department said.
The Colorado State Public Health Laboratory found the case by conducting a genome sequencing on the specimen and confirming the presence of the variant. The specimen had the signature S gene target failure diagnostic test profile that has been identified in omicron cases, CDPHE said.
The case was identified after the woman got a positive test result and through routine case investigation by the Tri-County Health Department. Because the woman had recently been to Africa, CDPHE collected an additional specimen for genome sequencing.
Michelle Haas, BCPH chief medical officer, encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which reduces the chance of infection, hospitalization and death from the virus.
“It’s not unexpected that we would eventually identify another variant of SARS-CoV2," Haas said. "All viruses generate random changes as they replicate. Some changes cause the virus to adapt and become more efficient in passing from person to person. As long as we see ongoing transmission, we will continue to see emergence of new variants."
Colorado is the third state to detect the omicron variant. It was the first in the nation to identify the alpha variant last December.
CDPHE recommends anyone coming back from international travel should be get tested three to five days after their return.
The omicron variant was recently detected in November in the region of southern Africa, and CDPHE said is may be responsible for an increase in COVID cases in that area.
The U.S. recorded its first confirmed omicron variant case Wednesday in a vaccinated traveler who returned to California after a trip to South Africa. The infected person was identified as a traveler who had returned on Nov. 22, developed mild symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 Monday.
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