The first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Texas was confirmed Monday night. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo confirmed the news. A woman in her 40s who is vaccinated and has not traveled recently tested positive for the omicron variant.
NEW: A woman in her 40s from northwest Harris County with no recent travel history tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The best way to protect ourselves and our community from this virus is by vaccinating and boosting ourselves. Get your shot ➡️ https://t.co/qS98pi06fL
– Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) December 7, 2021
The Texas Department of State Health Services published a declaration. Harris County Public Health and department are investigating. The statement includes a reminder that vaccination remains the best way to avoid serious illness and death from the coronavirus.
“It is normal for viruses to mutate, and given how quickly Omicron has spread in southern Africa, we are not surprised that it appeared here,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. “Getting vaccinated and continuing to use prevention strategies, including wearing a mask when around people you don’t live with, social distancing, hand washing, and getting tested when you have symptoms, will help slow the spread of the virus now. end the pandemic. “
Variant B.1.1.529 was identified in South Africa last month and appears to spread more easily from person to person than most strains of the coronavirus. Currently, it is not clear if the Omicron variant is associated with more serious disease. Studies have been started to determine how effective vaccines are expected to be against the infection. However, vaccination is expected to continue to offer protection against hospitalization and death. Omicron is believed to be responsible for a small proportion of current COVID-19 cases in Texas and the United States.
The fact that the woman did not have a recent travel history is a clue that the omicron variant is already prevalent in Harris County (Houston) and is spreading. Also Monday, health officials announced that the city sewage water it is being tested and the Houston Health Authority is working with the Houston Methodist sequencing lab.
In an interview Monday before the virus was identified in Harris County, Houston Health Authority David Persse said HHD was testing the city’s wastewater and working with the Houston Methodist sequencing lab to quickly identify the variant.
“The only thing the coronavirus has taught us, all the variants from the start, is that it has put us behind the curve because many people who are infected have minimal symptoms or no symptoms at all,” he said. “So I will assume that he is already here or that he will be here very soon.”
On Tuesday, Persse reported that the omicron variant was found in eight of 39 samples from wastewater treatment plants. Connecting the dots between the first reported case, with no history of travel involved, and multiple wastewater treatment plants that tested positive for the variant indicates that it is prevalent and spreading throughout the community. Then anticipate that hospitalizations for COVID will increase.
And that means we’ll probably start to see an increase in hospitalizations soon, according to Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse.
“We have seen a small increase in the total amount of virus in wastewater, so I would suggest to us that in about two weeks, we will probably start to see more hospitalizations of COVID patients,” he said. said.
Not much is known about the omicron variant yet, but since it is known to spread rapidly, it is not a surprise that it was found in Houston, said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. Echoing the others, Hellerstedt also reminded people that get vaccinated. “All people 5 years and older are eligible for vaccination,” Hellerstedt said. “Everyone 18 years of age and older should receive a booster shot when eligible.”
The encouraging news is that omicron doesn’t seem to make people sick the way Delta did, and not as many people require hospitalization. Persse said that eventually COVID-19 variants will be a less important part of our lives. The waves of infections will become milder and the virus will fade like other infectious diseases. It may take a year or two or three or more for that to happen, but we’ll get to that point.
Dr. Peter Hotez, Houston’s Eeyore of the coronavirus pandemic and anti-vaccine critic, said yes hard to imagine that the omicron variant will overtake Delta in Texas. “Delta has been the king of all variants. In terms of transmissibility, it’s hard to imagine how anything could beat it. “Omicron ranks second in relation to the delta variant. He is most concerned about the next wave of the delta variant.
“I mean, what could be worse than the fact that 20,000 unvaccinated Texans since June 1 have lost their lives unnecessarily from vaccine defiance and rejection?” Hotez said. “When I think about the things that keep me awake at night, it’s the next wave of the delta variant. So I think it’s one to keep things in perspective. We have done a terrible job vaccinating the state of Texas. “
This is consistent with previous statements of Hotez. He said last week that omicron sounds nasty but delta is still the real villain. To date, the delta affects the unvaccinated population the most.
Delta is still quite aggressive and may last a while. We could have a twin epidemic with delta and omicron. In the past, we had the original, then the alpha was dominant, then the delta. This could be a foot race between the two of you.
A possibility that I have been talking about based on the characteristics: we could see that each variant disproportionately affects different populations. Delta could continue to affect those who are not vaccinated, while omicron could have a different advantage in escaping the antibodies. It could re-infect those who have been infected but are not yet vaccinated. Or disproportionately affect the partially vaccinated. I think the message, however, no matter what, the course of action is the same. Get the most. If you haven’t been vaccinated, do so. If you received two doses, get the third. If you have been infected and recovered, but were not vaccinated, get vaccinated in addition to that. Vaccinate your children. If you don’t, you’re looking for trouble.
The message is the same from all health and science officials: Get vaccinated. So far, 60% of the American population is vaccinated, about half of Texans are vaccinated. It is still a personal choice and that choice carries risks. For the latest variant, omicron, Hotez recommends showing concern but not panic. By the time the variants are reported, they are here.