First case of Omicron variant identified in Western New York | Local News

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Researchers at the University at Buffalo have identified the first case of the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19 in Western New York.

Health experts have said since the variant was first identified in South Africa in November that it was a question of when, rather than if, Omicron would arrive here. In just a matter of days, Omicron has become the dominant strain of the virus in New York City, causing what Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday called a “vertical” spike in cases. With Omicron’s arrival in New York City, the state as a whole has consistently set single-day caseload records since testing for the virus became widely available near the beginning of the pandemic.

UB researchers said they were not able to pinpoint exactly when the variant arrived in Western New York, but it has likely been circulating in the community for at least a couple weeks. The variant was first announced to the world on Nov. 25 and is believed to be two to three times more transmissible than the already-easily-spread Delta variant that has fueled a case spike in Western New York dating to mid-October. 

The genetic sequencing necessary to determine which variant of the virus is present in a DNA sample can take up to two weeks, and researchers at UB said they had completed sequencing on 800 samples from November, all of which were the Delta variant.

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