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Omicron variant detected in California's wastewater before WHO raises alarms: US media

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-12-11 10:24

An oil tanker waits in line in the ocean outside the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in Los Angeles, April 7, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES - The test result of a wastewater sample showed that the Omicron COVID-19 variant was present in US state California even before the World Health Organization declared it the newest coronavirus variant of concern, media reported Friday, citing official sources.

The Omicron variant was detected in a sample of wastewater collected in Merced County on Nov 25, the California Department of Public Health said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times, a major newspaper on the US West Coast. That's one day after South Africa reported the variant to the World Health Organization, and a day before the agency labeled Omicron a "variant of concern."

The finding reinforces observations scientists have made in recent weeks that Omicron was rapidly spreading across the world even before global health officials were aware it existed, The Los Angeles Times reported, adding that the variant was also detected in wastewater samples collected in Sacramento County.

Sampling wastewater for coronavirus-related particles is being used to track pandemic trends. Groups of scientists in the state are monitoring wastewater for coronavirus samples, including experts affiliated with Stanford University, the University of California (UC) Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Merced, UC San Diego and the state Department of Public Health, according to the newspaper.

Health authorities announced last week that the first US case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected in San Francisco, California. The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov 22.

The California Department of Public Health said in a release on Thursday that 13 confirmed cases associated with the Omicron variant have been reported to the state. The variant has been reportedly detected in more than 20 states in the country.

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