Omicron variant has arrived in Montana, according to DPHHS

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported on Monday afternoon that the state had recorded its first two cases of COVID 19 caused by the new Omicron variant.

Magdalene Scott, Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section Supervisor at DPHHS, provided details on early exposures at Montana Omicron.

“We have two cases of COVID that are infected with the Omicron variant,” Scott said. “These are two travelers who have just returned from South Africa. The CDC has a program where they monitor returning international travelers, so they notified the state that these people were entering and had returned from South Africa.

Scott said the DPHHS remains in close contact with the Gallatin County Department of Health.

“We contacted the Gallatin County Health Department and they were able to quickly track these travelers and make sure they were immediately quarantined and then had them tested,” he said. “Once they tested positive they were isolated and the County of Gallatin also helped coordinate their testing and in the sequencing as well the county did a great job with this one, and we did so in fact no close contact with these two cases that have been identified in Montana.

Acting State Physician Maggie Cook-Shimanek had more details on the Omicron variant.

“What we know so far about the Omicron variant is that it is likely to spread more easily than other variants of the SARS virus,” Cook Shimanek said. “So we don’t know much about the severity of the disease compared to previous variants.”

Cook Shimanek provided more details on the new variant that was just discovered in Montana.

“You hear a lot of things published in the media about some of the cases reported to date, usually people who were suffering from milder illness and some of the symptoms related to COVID,” she said. “However, many of the reported cases were vaccinated or had already been infected. So, it remains to be seen how severe this variant is.

DPHHS official Todd Harwell added that symptoms of COVID 19 variants often mimic those of the flu.

“Many, if not all, of the symptoms of COVID are really like the flu,” Harwell said. “We are seeing a slight increase in influenza cases, unlike last year where we had virtually none or none, and we have also had some current hospitalizations for influenza. So other prevention messages not just for COVID but for the flu are to get the flu shot, and that’s for anyone six months of age or older. “

The DPHHS has this advice for anyone worried about contracting COVID.

Get vaccinated and, if you are eligible, get a booster. To find a vaccine near you, visit covidvaccine.mt.gov. Also, take steps to help prevent the spread of the virus, such as using face masks, physical distancing, practicing hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Get tested for COVID-19 when you feel sick or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, and stay home when you are sick.

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