HOUSTON (KIAH) – The Houston Health Department has detected the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 in Houston’s wastewater. The detection was the first indication of the new variant in Houston.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said Monday that genetic sequencing tests this week showed that a Houston-area woman’s recent COVID-19 case was the omicron variant. County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the woman is a Harris County resident in her 40s with no recent travel history.
Wastewater samples collected in Houston on November 29-30 showed Omicron at eight of the city’s 39 wastewater treatment plants, including WCID #111, Chocolate Bayou, Keegans Bayou, Metro Central, Northgate, Sims Bayou North, Turkey Creek, and West District.
“The Houston Health Department and Houston Water continue to do an exceptional job tracking the impact of the virus in our community. While no specific case of the Omicron variant has been confirmed in an individual in the city of Houston, we should use this information as a reminder to get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Vaccines help protect us, our loved ones, friends, and colleagues in the work environment. As the holidays approach, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant about their health and safety.”
Federal health officials are conducting studies on whether Omicron is more transmissible, causes more serious illness, or evades vaccine protection compared to other variants of the virus. Results are expected in the next few weeks.
“Omicron in Houston is cause for concern but not panic,” said Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston. “It`s important to remember that vaccination is our best tool to reduce cases, prevent serious illness and death, and slow the emergence of new variants.”
Officials again urged Texans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and seek other protection, including wearing masks.
“If you are not yet fully vaccinated, please do it now to protect yourself, your family, and our community,” said Dr. Persse. “If you are 18 years or older and it`s been six months since your second dose of Moderna or Pfizer or two months since the single dose of Johnson & Johnson, please get your booster shot.”
The health department offers any dose of all COVID-19 vaccines to all eligible ages (5+) at its vaccination sites. Vaccination is free and does not require proof of residency.