Indiana identifies first case of omicron variant of COVID-19

The state has identified a case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in an unvaccinated Indiana resident, the first time the strain has been found in the state, even as it spreads quickly in other parts of the country.

The Indiana Department of Health said the case was detected through the agency’s variant surveillance program.

The specimen was collected Dec. 9, and the patient was notified of the positive test, but it takes longer to sequence the virus to detect the variant. Lab tests confirmed omicron this weekend.

State health officials did not provide additional information about the patient or where the case was detected.

Before the results were confirmed, Indiana had been one of just seven states where omicron had not been detected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal health officials say omicron—which the World Health Organization labeled as a variant of concern on Nov. 26—is highly contagious and expected to quickly.

The delta variant still accounts for more than 95% of estimated U.S. COVID_19 cases, according to the CDC. But agency leaders say omicron is spreading faster than any past variant and will become the dominant strain nationwide within weeks.

Officials have also said that vaccinations with a booster appear to provide protection against serious illness and hospitalization from omicron. However, they have repeatedly warned that they don’t have enough information yet to be definitive.

Dr. Kris Box, the state’s health commissioner, said in a statement that omicron underscores the importance of getting vaccinated and taking other steps to prevent the spread of illness, especially as Hoosiers move indoors during the colder winter months and gather for the holidays.

“COVID-19 cases are on the rise across Indiana, and we do not want this variant to increase the burden on our already stressed healthcare system,” Box said. “While we are still learning about omicron, we already have the tools and knowledge we need to protect ourselves and the people we love from COVID-19. I urge eligible Hoosiers to use those tools as soon as possible to limit the further spread of disease.”

The agency said information about the omicron variant will be added to the COVID-19 dashboard at www.coronavirus.in.gov this week.

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