The first known case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Texas was detected Monday in Harris County, state health officials say.
The person who tested positive is a woman in her 40s from northwest Harris County who had no recent travel history, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted.
The omicron, or the B.1.1.529, variant was first identified last month in South Africa and appears to spread more easily between people than most strains of COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
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"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," DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said in a statement. "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."
DSHS officials said vaccination was still expected to offer protection against hospitalization and death.
Preliminary data about the severity of the COVID-19 omicron variant is "a bit encouraging," the White House's chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday, following early figures from South Africa that suggest it may not be as bad as initially feared.
However, Fauci cautioned that more data was needed to draw a complete picture of omicron's risk profile. The World Health Organization said the variant was "of concern" on Nov. 26, prompting a flurry of international travel bans and new COVID-19 restrictions.