BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is reporting its 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 news comes hours after Kanter and Gov. John Bel Edwards held a briefing in Baton Rouge encouraging Louisianians to prepare for the arrival of the variant by getting vaccinated or boosted if eligible and taking masking and social distancing precautions where appropriate.

“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.

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.