Houston Health Department begins testing city's wastewater for omicron variant

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As concerns continue to grow over the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, Houston's Health Department announced it has begun testing the city's wastewater for the variant.

On Tuesday, the department said the omicron variant was not detected in the most recent round of wastewater samples collected during the week of Nov. 22.

"Testing wastewater will help us stay fully aware and prepared for the omicron variant presence throughout Houston. This proactive measure by the Houston Health Department is another indication of the City's dedication to protecting Houstonians," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "Although our team has not detected omicron in Houston, we should anticipate it arriving, and the health department is prepared to scale its operations as needed to respond. In the meantime, I encourage eligible Houstonians to get fully vaccinated."

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Since May 2020, the city has been collecting weekly samples from 39 wastewater treatment plants to get an idea of COVID levels in the area. People with COVID shed particles of the virus in their feces, which can then be detected in the samples of the wastewater.

So far, there are no confirmed cases of the variant in the city of Houston. But the nation's top health experts confirm that booster shots will offer a level of protection against the omicron variant.

The new variant has now been detected in at least 20 countries and doctors say that will likely grow.
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