First European case of Omicron variant ‘had no links with South Africa’

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The first detection of the Omicron variant in Europe was announced on Friday. It was found in an unvaccinated young woman that returned to Belgium after a trip to Egypt recently.

A case of the novel Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant was detected in Belgium on Friday, 26 November. A leading virologist in the country confirmed the case and said the infected patient first started displaying symptoms on Monday.

OMNICRON VARIANT DETECTED IN EUROPE

 Mark van Ranst, who works for the Rega Institute for Medical Research, which works closely with the Belgian government, confirmed that a traveller who returned to the country from Egypt on 11 November, first developed symptoms on 22 November.

Later on Friday, Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a media briefing that the case of the Omicron variant was found in an unvaccinated person, according to Reuters.

“It is a suspicious variant. We do not know if it is a very dangerous variant,” said Vandenbroucke.

Belgium’s national reference laboratory said the infected person was a young adult woman who developed symptoms 11 days after travelling to Egypt via Turkey. She displayed flu-like symptoms but showed no signs of severe disease thus far. Her household members displayed no symptoms but they are being tested.

According to The Guardian, the woman is unvaccinated and had no links with South Africa or other countries in southern Africa.

South Africa’s health and science authorities were the first to announce the detection of the Omicron variant on Thursday and since then it and its neighbouring countries have been placed on red travel lists for a host of nations.

“In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) in a classification statement on Friday.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs [Variants of Concern].

“The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa.”



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