Omicron variant discovered in Louisiana Content Exchange

NEW ORLEANS - The first probable case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Louisiana, the state Health Department said Friday night.

The case involves someone from the New Orleans area who had recently traveled within the United States. The Health Department did not say whether the person had been vaccinated.

Dr. Joseph Kanter

Dr. Joseph Kanter during a press conference, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. (Photo by Hilary Scheinuk, The Advocate)

"We now know omicron is here in Louisiana," health officer Dr. Joe Kanter said. "We have been expecting and preparing for this moment. To all Louisianans, the single best action you can take to protect yourselves and your families is to get yourself and loved ones vaccinated and boosted if eligible."

The news came just hours after Gov. John Bel Edwards called a news conference - his first COVID-19 media briefing in weeks - to encourage the public to get vaccinated, and when eligible, to get a booster shot in preparation for the spread of omicron. He called it the "smartest, best decision" for yourself and your community.

Little is known about the omicron variant, which has now been detected in more than 30 countries and at least 9 U.S. states. Researchers have identified more than 50 mutations, primarily on the virus' spike proteins, which play an important role in how the virus infects its host. At the moment, however, there isn't sufficient data to determine whether the variant spreads more quickly or makes patients sicker than the original strain of the virus.

It's also unclear to what degree the variant will be resistant, if at all, to the vaccines and therapeutics currently available, Kanter said.

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