First Case of Omicron Variant Detected in Indiana

Health officials point to vaccinations as the best way to prevent severe illnesses, hospitalization and death from the variant

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Indiana has confirmed its first case of the omicron variant, state officials announced Sunday.

The variant was detected in a specimen collected Dec. 9 from an unvaccinated Indiana resident, according to the Indiana Department of Health. Health officials declined to provide additional information on the patient, citing privacy laws.

Up until the case was announced, Indiana was one of seven states where the variant hadn't been confirmed, health officials noted.

Earlier Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's top medical adviser, said the omicron variant is “just raging around the world," noting President Joe Biden will soon give “a stark warning of what the winter will look” for unvaccinated Americans.

Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the real problem” for the U.S. hospital system is that “we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.”

The variant has been detected in 89 countries, and COVID-19 cases involving the variant are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in places with community transmission and not just infections acquired abroad, the World Health Organization said Saturday.

Omicron's “substantial growth advantage” over the delta variant means it is likely to soon overtake delta as the dominant form of the virus in countries where the new variant is spreading locally, the U.N. health agency said.

Health officials point to vaccinations as the best way to prevent severe illnesses, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, including the omicron variant.

In a news release, Dr. Kris Box, Indiana's state health commissioner, explained the latest mutation underscores the importance of getting vaccinated and taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as Hoosiers gather for the holidays and spend more time indoors.

UCLA's Dr. Timothy Brewer says coronavirus vaccine booster doses can help your immune system against the Omicron variant much better than your first and second shots. Immune systems that have received more doses are able to have "a broader response," he explains.

"COVID-19 case are on the rise across Indiana, and we do not want this variant to increase the burden on our already stressed health care system," she 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."

In order to prevent omicron and other variants, Box encourages residents to get fully vaccinated, wear well-fitting masks, get tested if symptoms develop, avoid crowds and wash hands frequently.

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