INDIANAPOLIS — The first known case of the Omicron variant is now in Indiana. Health officials are sounding the alarm on how contagious this new variant is ahead of holiday gatherings this week.
Experts say the timing of the Omicron variant arriving in Indiana couldn’t be worse — with many planning to travel and gather this week for holiday gatherings. That’s why they’re encouraging Hoosiers to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and others this holiday season amid the latest strain of COVID-19.
With the first known case of the Omicron variant now detected in Indiana — health officials aren’t taking any chances.
“It’s really infectious and it’s spreading quickly, especially among the unvaccinated,” said Thomas Duszynski, a Professor of Epidemiology at Fairbanks School of Public Health.
Indiana’s first case was in an unvaccinated Hoosier and now the variant has been reported in all but five states.
“We’ve been presuming once it arrived in the U.S., it was already here and was taking some time to be detected,” said Duszynski.
Early studies show the Omicron variant is 30 percent more infectious than other strains of coronavirus and share many of the same symptoms as previous variants.
“There were some reports this might be a milder version of COVID but in other countries, they thought the rate of hospitalization was just as high,” said Kristen Kelley, Nursing Director of Infection Prevention at IU Health.
Kelley pointed out some initial reports have found current vaccines do not treat the Omicron variant. “There are some initial reports it can really evade immunity, which means some of the vaccines aren’t as effective,” Kelley said.
Still, experts are recommending Hoosiers get vaccinated or a booster shot as your best form of protection.
“Vaccines are the best way to prevent that vaccine from causing anymore destruction in our communities” Kelley said.
With many set to travel and gather this week for holiday gatherings, health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to social distance, wash your hands often and wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.
“Those things are great weapons against not only the coronavirus, but the Omicron variant,” said Duszynski.
CDC scientists have already begun gathering data and virus samples that can be studied to answer important questions about the Omicron variant. They’ll provide updates as soon as possible.