The first known Texas case of the COVID-19 B.1.1.529 variant has been identified in a resident of Harris County. The adult female resident was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Results of genetic sequencing this week showed that the infection was caused by the Omicron variant strain. The case is being investigated by Harris County Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“It’s normal for viruses to mutate, and given how quickly Omicron spread in southern Africa, we’re not surprised that it showed up here,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “Getting vaccinated and continuing to use prevention strategies, including wearing a mask when you are around people you don’t live with, social distancing, handwashing and getting tested when you have symptoms, will help slow the spread of the virus and help end the pandemic.”
The B.1.1.529 variant 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 unclear if the Omicron variant is associated with more severe disease. Studies have commenced to determine how effective vaccines are expected to be against infection. However, vaccination is expected to continue to offer protection against hospitalization and death. Omicron is thought to be responsible for a small proportion of the current COVID-19 cases in Texas and the United States.
Vaccination remains the best protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19 the DSHS report states. Everyone 5 years and older is eligible for vaccination, and everyone 18 years and older should get a booster shot when they are eligible. The latest on COVID-19 in Texas is available at dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus, including daily case data and information on testing and vaccination.
Most local pharmacies offer COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots, for eligible individuals; contact your pharmacist for additional information.
CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital – Sulphur Springs offers a COVID Vaccine Clinic every Friday morning from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the main lobby of the hospital until further notice, with the exception of Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) and New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31). The available vaccines include Moderna (2-doses, ages 18 and older) and Pfizer (2-doses, ages 12 and older) and Johnson & Johnson (1-dose, ages 18 and older). This includes all three brands of boosters for fully vaccinated people. Appointments are not required, but a parent or guardian must accompany anyone 17 and younger.