AUSTIN (KXAN) — The omicron variant has been found in Houston’s wastewater, the Houston Health Department announced Monday night. Though genomic testing of wastewater samples came back positive for the variant, an individual case has not been confirmed in Houston as of Tuesday morning.
The health department reported samples taken in late November showed omicron was present in eight of the city’s 39 treatment plants.
The process for testing specific variants of COVID-19 is referred to as genomic sequencing. The city says they got those results back, confirming the samples were the omicron variant, Monday evening.
“The Houston Health Department and Houston Water continue to do an exceptional job tracking the impact of the virus in our community. While no specific case of the omicron variant has been confirmed in an individual in the city of Houston, we should use this information as a reminder to get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a city release.
The health department regularly tests wastewater as a way to predict potential surges of COVID-19, according to the health department. It also helps determine where the city’s hot spots are.
In Austin, testing of wastewater through the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas was put on hold earlier this year due to lack of funding.
“There’s personnel costs, so there’s students that are doing the work and there’s also reagents that we need and some of these reagents have been in short supply and in quite high demand as you might imagine during the pandemic because lots of people are doing testing,” Professor Mary Jo Kirisits, who was leading that team at Cockrell School of Engineering, told KXAN in September.