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First case of omicron variant confirmed in Tampa

A spokesperson for the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital confirmed a patient tested positive for the variant.

TAMPA, Fla. — The first confirmed case of the omicron variant in Florida has been detected in Tampa. 

Kimberly Antos, a spokesperson with the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, confirms one of its patients has tested positive for the variant. The CDC has since verified the case.

Antos said in a statement the patient has mild symptoms and had recently returned from international travel. 

You can read the full statement below:

Yes, we can confirm 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 our developing understanding of this strain.

The best tool we have to ensure the public’s continued health is COVID-19 vaccination, including COVID-19 boosters, available now at all of the Tampa VA locations.

It is critical for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. While no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing illness, the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. provide excellent protection against the COVID-19 variants that have caused surges in the United States so far and are particularly effective in preventing severe illness or death from COVID-19. Veterans and their families can learn more about where to get a vaccine at VA here: https://www.tampa.va.gov/services/covid-19-vaccines.asp

It is also important for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to continue wearing masks when in public, maintain physical distance of six feet when possible and stay home if they are sick."

The variant, found in nearly 40 countries, was first confirmed in the U.S. on Dec. 1. Since then, health officials in several states have confirmed their own cases of the variant.  

Omicron, designated by the World Health Organization as a "variant of concern" in late November, was first reported in South Africa. Its country of origin is unclear. WHO said it is currently unknown whether the omicron variant has different symptoms or is more transmissible than other variants. 

The variant appears to have been behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in South Africa. Early reports there suggest it may result in fewer hospitalizations, although more research is needed.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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