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  /  News   /  Fauci says omicron Covid variant has already been found in 20 countries, but not yet in the U.S.

Fauci says omicron Covid variant has already been found in 20 countries, but not yet in the U.S.

In this photo illustration, a hand holding a medical syringe with words that say omicron covid-19 variant in the background.

Rafael Henrique | LightRocket | Getty Images

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that 226 cases of the highly mutated omicron Covid-19 variant have been detected across 20 countries so far, but U.S. officials haven’t yet confirmed a case in the states.

The variant, which first emerged in South Africa about a week ago, has more than 30 mutations to the spike protein alone. That’s the key part of the virus that allows it to bind to human cells and infect the body and makes scientists worry that it will be far more infectious than the highly contagious delta variant that’s caused a surge in cases across globe in recent months.

“This mutational profile is very different from other variants of interest and concern, and although some mutations are also found in delta, this is not delta,” Fauci told reporters on a White House Covid-19 task force briefing. “These mutations have been associated with increase transmissibility and immune evasion.”

There are several other mutations to the virus that scientists haven’t seen before and don’t know how they will change how the virus behaves or spreads, he said.

U.S. officials have stepped up genomic sequencing of Covid cases in recent months, sequencing about 80,000 samples per week, up from about 8,000 a week earlier this year, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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