Omicron Variant Detected for the First Time in North Texas
North Texas now has its first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Ayass Bioscience, a testing lab in Frisco, confirmed two cases of the new variant Wednesday night involving a 35 and 40-year-old. Neither has a recent travel history.
This news comes after the first case was detected in the Houston area on Monday. The first case of omicron in the U.S. was identified on Dec. 1, 2021.
“At this time, we are still waiting for scientific data to answer everyone’s questions about this variant such as whether or not it is more contagious, whether or not it causes worse disease, and whether or not our vaccines can prevent it,” said Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s.
The CDC stresses that “vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.”
While the vaccine remains the most effective way to combat COVID-19, data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released on Dec. 1 found that only 12% of young Texans, ages 5-11 years old are immunized, and 61% of Texas teens have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Dr. Whitworth and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. They also strongly advise that everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
“COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death,” the CDC adds. “Scientists are currently investigating omicron, including how protected fully vaccinated people will be against infection, hospitalization, and death.”
What we know about the omicron variant (from the CDC):
- How easily does omicron spread? The omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and how easily omicron spreads compared to delta remains unknown. CDC expects that anyone with omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
- Will omicron cause more severe illness? More data is needed to know if omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.
- Will vaccines work against omicron? Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
- Will treatments work against omicron? Scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective.
Click here to learn more about the best tools to fight omicron and more general information from the CDC.