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Scientists confirm first omicron cases in South Carolina

FILE photo, covid-19, omicron
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FILE

Scientists say they have confirmed the first three cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in South Carolina.

Officials with the Medical University of South Carolina said Wednesday that the identified cases were all in the state's Lowcountry region — one each in Charleston, North Charleston and Johns Island.

Scientists reported the earliest sample was collected Dec. 4, meaning the variant has been in the state for at least a couple weeks.

Two of the patients were fully vaccinated but had not received boosters, according to MUSC. The third had received only one vaccine dose.

The public university hospital says it conducts genome sequencing on all COVID-19 cases tested through the hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 states have detected at least one case of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told The Associated Press last week that of more than 40 people found to be infected with the variant in the United States, nearly all had mild illness.

Scientists are still studying how easily the variant spreads after it was first identified in South Africa last month.