NH DHHS Identifies First Detection Of Omicron Variant
Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has identified the first detection of the COVID-19 virus Omicron variant in a New Hampshire resident. This person is an adult from Cheshire County who traveled out-of-state and was exposed to another person who subsequently was identified with the Omicron variant infection. This NH resident, who was considered fully vaccinated but was not yet boosted, had a mild illness and has since recovered during home isolation. Close contacts are taking appropriate public health precautions. There have been no identified public or occupational exposures.
The NH Public Health Laboratories (PHL) prioritized this specimen for genetic sequencing when the person’s PCR test showed a pattern potentially concerning for an Omicron variant infection. The PHL then conducted targeted genetic sequencing of the viral spike protein that showed genetic mutations consistent with the Omicron variant. Additional whole genome sequencing of the virus confirmed the Omicron variant. The State and laboratory partners will continue to conduct genetic sequencing on positive specimens and additional Omicron cases will be reported on the State’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
COVID-19 remains at very high levels around the State, and 99% of infections are currently due to the Delta variant; however, the Omicron variant is predicted to be more infectious and may become predominant. Early data suggest that the Omicron variant may be able to cause more breakthrough infections in vaccinated or previously infected persons compared with previous virus strains. Vaccination, however, is still expected to protect against severe COVID-19 and long-COVID symptoms. Early laboratory studies are also suggesting that a booster dose after completion of a primary vaccination series will help restore a higher level of neutralizing antibody protection against Omicron.
“Anybody 5 years of age or older should get vaccinated against COVID-19, including people who were previously infected with COVID-19,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan. “And people who have already completed a primary COVID-19 vaccine series should get a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to have optimal protection against both the currently circulating Delta variant, and the new emerging Omicron variant.”
Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from asymptomatic infection or mild illness to more severe illness requiring hospitalization or resulting in death. On December 12, 454 people were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,781 people in New Hampshire have died from COVID-19. Early symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of break or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Anybody with new symptoms of COVID-19 (regardless of vaccination status) should be tested for COVID-19. And anybody who has had an identified exposure to another person with COVID-19 should be tested about 5-7 after their exposure, even if they do not have symptoms. Additional steps people should take to limit the spread of COVID-19 include:
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19, including a booster dose
- Stay home when sick or if new symptoms of COVID-19 develop
- Avoid large group gatherings
- Continue to practice physical distancing
- Wear face masks when in indoor public locations and around other people
- Wash or sanitize hands frequently
- Cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
For more information on COVID-19 in NH, please visit https://www.covid19.nh.gov/. For the latest information from the CDC, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.