Traces of the omicron COVID-19 variant have been found in the wastewater of American cities.
Sewage testing in California – where omicron was first detected in the U.S. at the beginning of the month – found signs of the “variant of concern” in both Sacramento and Merced counties.
No cases have been reported there, KTVU reported Thursday.
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Officials told Fox 40 that the findings indicate that the clinical cases of the variant “probably exist.”
There are 12 confirmed omicron cases in California.
In Boulder, Colorado, the state’s wastewater testing system detected levels of the variant, leading public health officials to tell reporters that there is likely “some low-level of community transmission,” according to Fox 31.
There are only two cases in the state.
In Houston, Texas, the variant was detected in wastewater earlier this week.
“In an emotional level, I was a little disappointed. I really wasn’t surprised- Houston is an International city,” Dr. David Persse, the city’s chief medical officer, told Fox 26 on Tuesday. “It really clearly points out that we have got a community spread of Omicron in Houston.”
“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,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. “Vaccines help protect us, our loved ones, friends, and colleagues in the work environment. As the holidays approach, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant about their health and safety.”
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The first omicron case in Texas was detected in a Houston woman.
Community spread has also been suspected in Georgia, where the department of public health said it had confirmed a case of the variant in an unvaccinated Atlanta-area resident who had not traveled abroad recently.
Monitoring wastewater helps officials to understand the concentration and spread of the omicron mutation.
Scientists are also working to determine how easily the variant spreads compared to others, whether it can cause more severe illness and whether it can evade immune protection and COVID-19 vaccines.
It is unclear whether omicron will become the country’s dominant strain. The delta variant still accounts for more than 99% of COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Omicron has now been detected in more than 20 states stretching across the country, including Florida, Hawaii, New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts.
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In a Thursday interview, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said cases of omicron have been mostly mild so far.
CDC officials said one person was hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.