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The first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in Texas has been identified in the Houston area

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood
Marco Bello
A health worker takes plasma after a separation process from blood samples in centrifuge during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination study at the Research Centers of America, in Hollywood, Florida, U.S., September 24, 2020.

A Harris County woman has tested positive for the COVID-19 omicron variant, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said on Monday.

It's the first case of the rapidly spreading strand of the virus identified in Texas.

An unidentified northwest Harris County woman in her 40s with no recent travel history tested positive for the variant recently, Hidalgo said on Twitter. The woman was fully vaccinated, and was not hospitalized.

It was not immediately clear when the woman tested positive, or when the results became available.

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed the announcement in a statement Monday night. DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt said omicron's appearance in Texas was unsurprising based on its rapid spread across southern Africa.

Houston’s health department also confirmed that the omicron variant is present in the city’s wastewater.

The strain was identified by South African doctors last month, but has since shown up in other countries. At least 17 other states in the U.S. have so far detected cases of the newest coronavirus variant, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Omicron appears to be the most transmissible strain of the virus yet, though public health officials are optimistic based on results in South Africa that it is less dangerous than the delta variant, which is still the predominant strain in the U.S.

There have been no confirmed cases of the variant in Houston, but the Houston Health Department said on Twitter that omicron has been identified by the city’s wastewater monitoring.

In a Monday interview before the virus was identified in Harris County, Houston Health Authority David Persse said HHD was testing the city's wastewater and working with Houston Methodist's sequencing lab in order to quickly identify the variant.

"The one thing that the coronavirus, all the variants have taught us from the beginning, is that it has put us behind the curve because so many people who are infected have minimal symptoms or no symptoms at all," he said. "So I will make the assumption that it is either here already or that it will be here very soon."

Additional reporting by Lucio Vasquez.
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