Because there are still relatively few cases of the variant in the Unites States, doctors are learning about it through data from other parts of the world.
“Looking at data out of South Africa, it looks like omicron is very transmissible. It may be more transmissible than delta," said Dr. Wesley Long with Houston Methodist. "But then it’s also important to remember South Africa is a different country, with a low vaccination rate, and with the AstraZeneca vaccine that we don’t use here."
During a press briefing for the White House COVID-19 response team, Dr. Anthony Fauci said people who previously got COVID-19 are getting re-infected with the omicron variant in South Africa. People who are fully vaccinated are also getting sick. However, cases seem to be milder.
The first documented case of the omicron variant in Harris County is a woman in her 40s who is vaccinated. She was symptomatic, but did not require hospitalization. She lives in northwest Harris County and hadn't traveled recently, according to County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
“If they aren’t sick enough to go to the hospital, then in many ways, the vaccine has done its job. It’s kept them from getting severely ill,” said Dr. Robert Atmar, infectious diseases expert with Baylor College of Medicine.
Doctors say getting the COVID-19 vaccine and the booster shot when eligible are still the best way to protect against the virus and its variants.