Dr Anthony Fauci, the US scientist who became the country’s most visible symbol of the fight against COVID-19, tested positive for the virus.
He is continuing to work from home as he recovers from mild symptoms, said the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Wednesday.
Dr Fauci, 81, who serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, tested positive during a rapid antigen test. The NIH said Fauci, who is vaccinated and double boosted, had not been in recent contact with Biden.
Fauci, who became the most recognisable public figure working to contain the virus in the early days of the pandemic, and was frequently vilified by conservatives opposed to public safety measures such as masks and vaccinations, now joins a growing number of Americans who have been the subject of breakthrough infections since the emergence of the Omicron variant last year.
BA.4 and BA.5, sublineages of the virus, are now on the rise.
While Fauci has become a household name since the beginning of the pandemic, he has been actively involved in the US response to every pandemic since 1984 and is the longstanding director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Dr Fauci was the subject of praise for his work during early attempts to contain the spread of HIV-AIDS.
Fauci’s public appearances early in the pandemic were seen by many as a source of reassurance amid a more chaotic response from the Trump administration.
As the public looked to Dr Fauci as a source of reliable information, he often publicly criticised the approach taken, and relations between him and President Donald Trump became increasingly tense.
Trump repeatedly verbally attacked the science adviser during his 2020 presidential campaign, hinting at one point he would fire Fauci if reelected.
According to an antibody survey carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 60 percent of Americans contracted COVID-19 by February 2022, a figure that is likely much higher today.