BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) and City of New Orleans have reported the first probable case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Louisiana.

The case was reported to be someone in the Greater New Orleans area who recently traveled within the U.S.

“We now know Omicron is here in Louisiana. This is cause for concern, but not panic,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter. “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 Governor and I promised earlier today we would share with the public as soon as we had information that Omicron was in our state,” said Dr. Kanter. “We know families have questions and concerns. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep the public updated.”

CDC and LDH recommend everyone 5 years of age and older get vaccinated and that everyone 18 years of age and older get a booster.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the New Orleans Health Department, also issued a statement regarding the probable Omicron case, saying:

“There is still much we do not know about this new variant in our community while we continue to deal with the effects of the last deadly strain. But the tools to protect ourselves and our family remain the same: masks and vaccinations are our biggest defenses.

Don’t wait until it’s too late – anyone 18+ that received their second dose of the vaccine six months ago should get their booster shot now for the highest level of protection. And if you haven’t gotten your COVID shot at all, you are at great risk from a variant that may be even more contagious than Delta. We must act now to keep Omicron from creating another devastating surge, so mask up and get fully vaccinated for your family, friends, and city.”

On Nov. 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and has named it Omicron. This new variant was first reported to the WHO by government officials in South Africa, and the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing throughout the Republic of South Africa.

So far, the virus has been detected in more than 30 countries and at least 9 states.

New information is still emerging, but Omicron includes multiple mutations across the SARS-CoV-2 genome. There is concern this new variant may be more transmissible than previous strains and that Omicron may carry an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern. The CDC and LDH expect to learn more about Omicron in the coming days.

LDH has established a network of laboratories to conduct genomic sequencing on positive SARS-CoV-2 specimens in order to track circulating SARS-CoV-2 lineages, including newly emerging variants such as Omicron. Epidemiologists, laboratorians, and researchers will continue to closely monitor these data in order to continue to identify Omicron cases in Louisiana.