Texas reports first case of omicron COVID-19 variant

Omicron research
Omicron research(WBAY)
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 7:32 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2021 at 8:21 PM CST
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(TEXAS TRIBUNE) - Texas has identified its first case of the omicron COVID-19 variant, a strain flagged as potentially more infectious than any that has come before it, including the delta variant responsible for surges still happening across the country, state health officials said on Monday.

The variant was identified in Texas in a Harris County woman in her 40s, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services and county Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Many questions still surround omicron, even as it remains high on the radar of state and federal health officials.

While early indicators suggest the variant is very contagious, it’s still unknown whether it will infect people at a faster rate or cause more hospitalizations than the delta variant, which currently represents nearly all the active cases in Texas.

It could also take another month, experts say, to figure out how effective vaccines or natural immunity will be against the omicron variant.

Other unknowns include how sick it will make those infected and whether it will be milder or more aggressive than the delta variant.

As omicron has been circulating in other countries for several weeks, the confirmation of its arrival in Texas was no surprise to state health officials, who said it’s likely that the variant has been present in the state for longer than that.

The first case of the omicron variant in the U.S. was reported Wednesday in California. Since then, more cases have popped up in other states, including New York and Minnesota.

Texas health officials are already on the lookout for a potential holiday surge — whether it’s caused by delta, by omicron or any other variant — and pushing for more Texans to get their vaccines. About 55% of Texans have been fully vaccinated as of Dec. 1.

“Prevention is important, and vaccination remains our best prevention tool,” said Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Federal health officials are also urging eligible vaccinated adults to get their booster shots to increase their protection against COVID-19. Among fully vaccinated Texans, only 18.5% of them have gotten a booster shot, according to state health numbers.

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