By William Patrick, The Center Square
The Louisiana Department of Health has announced eight new cases of individuals infected with the COVID-19 omicron variant, although none has required hospitalization.
The new infections bring the state’s known total number of omicron variant cases to 45; five are confirmed and 40 are “probable,” health officials said.
Information is still emerging, health officials said, while stating “multiple mutations” in the virus genome could be significant.
“There is concern that 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,” a Health Department statement said.
Two confirmed cases and 36 probable cases have been detected in the greater New Orleans area, the statement said.
Three probable infections also were detected in Baton Rouge, while single confirmed cases have been found in Acadiana, Northshore and northwest Louisiana.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and State Health Officer Joseph Kanter have urged caution but not panic since the first omicron occurrence was discovered Dec. 3.
“We now know omicron is here in Louisiana,” Kanter said. “We have been expecting and preparing for this moment.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the omicron strain as a “variant of concern” Nov. 26 after it was first found in South Africa. The U.S. designated omicron a variant of concern Dec. 1.
Cases since have been reported in 57 countries and 31 U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.