The first case of the new COVID-19 omicron variant was found in North Carolina Friday.
Mecklenburg County public health officials say the variant was identified in a student at UNC Charlotte.
The student, who was fully vaccinated, traveled out of state for Thanksgiving and had symptoms when they returned to campus after the holiday break, UNCC Vice Chancellor Rick Tankersley said. The student had only mild symptoms, he said.
Public health researchers suspect the new variant can spread faster than previous variants, but it's not clear if omicron causes more serious symptoms than the delta variant.
The omicron variant was first reported last month in South Africa and Botswana, according to the CDC.
The case was identified by the university's genomic sequencing program that identified COVID-19 variants. The county said the student was isolated and has fully recovered.
"The student was recognized quickly with symptoms," Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said. The student was tested and isolated quickly and then all their contacts were also tested, she said.
"It’s happened exactly the way we need it to happen to prevent further spread," Harris said.
None of the student's close contacts tested positive for the virus, Tankersley said.
"We know we’re going to see it in our community, and we now know it’s here," Harris said. "It’s still a fairly new variant out there and we’re seeing how it’s evolving."
The omicron variant has been found in at least 22 other states so far, according to the CDC and state public health departments. The Virginia Health Department reported the first omicron case in the commonwealth on Thursday.
The delta variant is still the dominant strain of the coronavirus in North Carolina, according to Harris and officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Case numbers have been rising again in North Carolina, which public health officials say is from the delta variant and connected to colder weather and holiday gatherings.