The Indiana Department of Health announced Sunday that the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus was detected in the state.
The person who contracted the omicron variant is an unvaccinated Indiana resident, according to health officials. The IDOH did not release any more details about the patient, citing privacy laws.
The test sample was collected nearly two weeks ago on Dec. 9 and the variant was detected through the IDOH Laboratories’ variant surveillance program.
Studies show the omicron variant is highly contagious, and it spreads more easily and faster than the delta variant of the coronavirus.
COVID-19 vaccines are expected to prevent severe illness, as well as hospitalization and death, from omicron. Those with booster shots are expected to be the best protected against the new variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said detection of the new variant underscores the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations as people spend more time indoors and gather for holiday events.
“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.”
As of Friday, the state's seven-day average of confirmed COVID-19 deaths was 33. Earlier this month hospitalizations releated to the disease topped 3,000 for the first time this year. And hospital systems across the state have reported seeing their highest overall patient counts of the pandemic, leading some to call in the Indiana National Guard for help.
The omicron variant has now been detected in most states; Indiana was previously only one of seven states where it hadn’t yet been found.
The health department said it will add information about the omicron variant to its COVID-19 dashboard this week.