A fully vaccinated Israeli doctor who became infected with the Omicron COVID-19 variant appears to have only passed the bug on to one other person — despite coming into close contact with dozens of people.
Dr. Elad Maor, a cardiologist at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, told the UK’s Guardian he came down with symptoms and tested positive on Nov. 27 after attending a three-day conference in London over the weekend.
“I got the Omicron in London, for sure,” Maor, who has received three doses of the Pfizer vaccine, told the outlet.
“That is interesting because that was 10 days ago in London — really, really early.”
According to the World Health Organization, the B.1.1.529 variant was first reported from South Africa on Nov. 24 — the day Maor arrived back in Israel.
The 45-year-old father of three said he got a PCR test on Nov. 20, Nov. 21 and again on Nov. 24 upon arrival in Tel Aviv — all of which came back negative.
With no symptoms and three negative tests, Maor returned to work, telling the New York Times that he then performed procedures on 10 patients before feeling ill.
In addition, he also shared a 90-minute car ride with the 70-year-old colleague, ate in a crowded cafeteria, attended a piano recital and enjoyed a large dinner with his wife and extended family.
The only other person to have tested positive so far is his co-worker, the Times said.
That number may rise, as the virus can take several days to show up in tests, but these initial results have left infectious disease experts at Maor’s hospital, the Sheba Medical Center, cautiously optimistic.
At least 50 people have already been screened with a PCR test by the hospital and at least 10 of those have been tested at least three times, the newspaper reported.
Maor’s wife, who accompanied him to London, also has not tested positive and none of the couple’s children have, either.
The people he had spent the most time with had all recently had a third “booster” shot, the Times noted.
“That’s reassuring, I think,” Maor told the Guardian. “I think the transmissibility of this [variant] is not completely different or extremely different to what I know about Delta.”
Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the infectious disease epidemiology unit at Sheba, told the Times that the case shows that “in some cases, Omicron is not as infectious if you’re vaccinated, and I think that’s a major thing.”
Meanwhile, Maor, who remains in isolation at home, did express concern that despite having no underlying medical issues and being triple-vaccinated, he has been hit hard by the bug with fever, a sore throat and muscle aches.
“Despite everything, despite the vaccines and the booster, I was in bed for 48 hours,” he told the Times. “If I didn’t have the vaccine, I probably would have ended up in the hospital.”
The doctor is urging people to get vaccinated, including boosters.
“I can’t emphasize the importance of that enough,” he told the Guardian. “Things could have ended much worse for my family and friends — I am sure that my disease could have been worse if not for the vaccine.”