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Signs of Omicron found in California wastewater, suggesting variant is widespread

Signs of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus have been found in California's wastewater, officials said, as the number of cases associated with the new variant rose to double digits, including two new infections in Los Angeles County confirmed since Tuesday.

Clues suggestive of Omicron's presence in the Central Valley were picked up in wastewater samples collected in Sacramento and Merced counties, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said this week in a discussion hosted by the California Medical Assn.

"We definitely are seeing Omicron across the state, for sure," Pan said.

In Sacramento County, Stanford University researchers detected a distinctive mutation that is found in Omicron from wastewater collected Nov. 30, according to a statement provided by county spokesperson Janna Haynes. Results were confirmed Monday, the county said.

"These findings indicate that the Omicron variant is most likely present in Sacramento County," the statement said.

Pan said the mutation was also found in a wastewater sample collected in Merced County.

By Wednesday night, California's tally of confirmed Omicron cases reached 12, with six cases in Alameda County, five in Los Angeles County and one in San Francisco.

L.A. County reported a new Omicron case Wednesday night, possibly a result of local transmission, in a fully vaccinated person who had received a booster and suffered only mild symptoms. Several close contacts of that person have also tested positive for the coronavirus, and work is underway to determine whether those cases involve the Omicron variant. Some of the close contacts are fully vaccinated; the vaccination status of others is under investigation.

A day earlier, Long Beach, which has its own health department, reported an Omicron case in a fully vaccinated resident who was experiencing no symptoms and who had traveled abroad, although not to southern Africa. The largest proportion of confirmed Omicron cases has been among people in southern Africa.

[Source: By Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money, Yahoo, 08Dec21]

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