HELENA — The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) reported on Monday it has confirmed the first known cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the state.
DPHHS officials say they have detected the variant through testing of positive COVID samples from two Montana residents in their 30s with a travel history to South Africa.
The variant was confirmed Monday through genomic sequencing performed at the Montana State Public Health Laboratory and at Montana State University.
“The individuals, who had mild symptoms that are improving, are self-isolating and have been since returning to Montana. They are residents of Gallatin County and were fully vaccinated,” said DPHHS in a news release.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) predicts the omicron variant will overtake the Delta variant in the coming weeks as the most dominant strain in the United States.
“This is not a surprise as nearly every other state has reported Omicron cases in recent weeks,” DPHHS Director Adam Meier said. “We continue to urge all Montanans to use all available tools to stay healthy this winter, including getting your COVID-19 vaccine and booster and taking other measures to prevent the spread of the virus."
Montana is the 46th state with a confirmed COVID-19 case caused by the Omicron variant.
Omicron is classified by the CDC as a "Variant of Concern." Initial reports from areas where the variant has been present longer have indicated it may have a higher transmission rate than Delta.
Despite the detection of Omicron, Delta remains the predominant strain in Montana. “The concern right now for public health officials is that other states in the U.S. are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, which are primarily the Delta variant,” said Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek, acting State Medical Officer at DPHHS. “Given this activity around the country, it’s important that we exercise caution and take proven steps to prevent disease and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 here in Montana.”
DPHHS encourages all Montanans to take the following steps to protect themselves from becoming infected with COVID-19, including variants like Omicron:
- Get vaccinated and if eligible get a booster. To find a vaccine near you, visit covidvaccine.mt.gov
- Eligible Montanans who haven’t gotten vaccinated and still have questions, should consult with their healthcare provider.
- 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 tests positive for the virus.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- For more information on the omicron variant visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html