CHARLESTON, S.C. — Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) announced they have found three cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19, the first cases of the virus detected in South Carolina.
The scientists in MUSC's Molecular Pathology Laboratory have been processing positive COVID-19 samples on a weekly basis in order to check for mutations and variants in the virus. This week, the sequencing team detected three cases of the omicron variant in the state.
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.
In the U.S., Pres. Joe Biden said shortly after the discover that the variant is a cause for concern, not panic. He renewed his call for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots. Health officials urged Americans to keep following standard COVID-19 precautions like social distancing and wearing masks indoors.
The World Health Organization said on Dec. 9 that early evidence suggests the omicron variant may be spreading faster than the highly transmissible delta variant but brings with it less severe coronavirus disease -- but cautioned that it was only “anecdotal information."