HOUSTON — Houston Methodist Hospital said the omicron variant is now responsible for at least 45% of its COVID-19 cases.
Using virus genome sequencing, their lab has identified eight additional cases of the omicron variant through December 12. That's on top of the 30 cases already reported by Methodist.
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"Omicron’s explosive growth in Houston continues unrelentingly. It is now poised to be the dominant cause of COVID-19 in our Houston Methodist patients," the hospital said in a statement.
"Omicron is doubling every 2 to 3 days among our COVID-19 patients. Only half of our omicron patients have been vaccinated with either two or three doses. A booster vaccine dose is your best defense against serious COVID-19 disease," Methodist advised.
Researchers there are now tracking the cases to determine its transmissibility and severity, as well as how the vaccines perform in omicron patients.
Until recently, COVID-19 sequencing at Methodist had shown 100% delta variants since earlier this year.
With more than 50 mutations, experts are concerned omicron may be more infectious than even the highly contagious delta variant, said S. Wesley Long, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist.
“We’re in a race against the variants,” Long said. “To stop the COVID-19 virus dead in its tracks, we can’t stress enough how critically important it is for everyone in the community to get completely vaccinated as soon as possible. Remember, this includes boosters or a third shot if you are eligible. Continue to take extra precautions in the meantime, such as wearing masks, socially distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and if you feel sick, self-isolating until you can be tested for COVID-19.”
The hospital said they've sequenced over 60,000 SARS-CoV-2 virus genomes since the beginning of the pandemic.