HOUSTON — The first known Texas case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified in a woman living in Harris County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services..

The woman was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and genetic sequencing revealed it was caused by the omicron variant strain. The case is being investigated by Harris County Public Health and DSHS. 

“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 omicron 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 rest of United States.

Health officials say vaccination remains the best protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19. 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.