TEXAS – A new COVID variant has been identified in Texas, becoming the fifth state where the variant has been confirmed. BA 2.86, also known as Pirola, raised concerns because it has several mutations and it has been detected in several locations within a short amount of time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pirola has been detected in Israel, Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and Thailand, including at least five states in the U.S.

A member from the genome sequencing team at Houston Methodist Hospital released the news of the first case in Texas on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In the Houston area, overall COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions are up a little and the wastewater viral load in Harris County is at 375 percent. In Texas, cases are up by 31.6% compared to the previous week according to the latest report issued Aug 28, 2023.

And while the CDC said there is currently no evidence that this new variant is causing more severe illness, doctors explained it’s still important for people to take safety precautions, especially as we head into the colder months with the RSV already seeing an increase in Texas.

The CDC advised that the updated COVID-19 vaccine, which will be available in mid-September, will likely be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization.

What can you do to protect yourself and others as we learn more about the new variant?

  • Get your COVID-19 vaccines, as recommended,
  • Stay home if you are sick,
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you are sick,
  • Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick,
  • If you choose to wear a mask, wear a high-quality one that fits well over your nose and mouth,
  • Improve ventilation,
  • Wash your hands.