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First cases of Omicron variant found in Washington state; patients range from 20-39 years old

Geekwire logo Geekwire 12/5/2021 Taylor Soper
a person sitting at a table: In a bootcamp that launched in January, University of Washington School of Nursing students train other UW students and faculty who hope to help in COVID-19 vaccinations. (Kiyomi Taguchi / University of Washington Photo) © Provided by Geekwire In a bootcamp that launched in January, University of Washington School of Nursing students train other UW students and faculty who hope to help in COVID-19 vaccinations. (Kiyomi Taguchi / University of Washington Photo)

Washington state has identified the first Omicron variants — three different cases in three counties, affecting patients ages 20-39.

The patients are two men — one in his thirties from Thurston County, and a man in his twenties from Pierce County — as well as a woman in her twenties from King County.

No information was available about severity of symptoms or travel history, or vaccination status of the patients. Samples were collected between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1.

Washington is the 13th state to confirm a Omicron case. The variant has been spotted in 38 countries.

The variant has dozens of mutations, and some suggest that it might spread quickly and weaken protection from vaccines and natural immunity. It is taking hold in a region in South Africa that includes Johannesburg, as cases rise, and it was found in specimens from Europe as early as Nov. 19.

Healthcare leaders said they fully expected to see the variant in Washington state, and expect to see more cases in the coming weeks.

“We strongly urge people to get vaccinated and get their boosters as soon as possible to maximize their level of protection from any variant,” Umair A. Shah, secretary of health, said in a statement.

Washington State Department of Health worked with the UW Medicine Virology Lab to identify the variant.

“In the coming days and weeks, we will learn more about the transmission and severity of Omicron from the scientists and researchers, but here’s what we know: vaccines work, boosters are key, and testing remains critical,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “We should continue to wear masks at indoor gatherings, remember to wash our hands frequently, understand the risks of crowded indoor spaces and stay home and away from others if you have symptoms.”

Related: COVID-19 experts answer questions about Omicron — and where the variant may have come from

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