Houston Health Department testing city wastewater for omicron variant

The Houston Health Department announced on Tuesday they are testing the city’s wastewater for the omicron variant.

The variant, which has been reported in numerous countries around the world, is the newest variant causing some concern and prompting travel restrictions.

RELATED: COVID-19 Omicron variant sparking widespread concern over uncertainty, prompts African travel ban

Health Department officials said on Tuesday that the omicron variant was not detected in the most recent round of wastewater samples that were collected the week of November 22.

Officials said they test the city’s wastewater weekly for the virus that causes COVID-19, including variants.

RELATED: Houston scientist among many studying Omicron Variant

"Testing wastewater will help us stay fully aware and prepared for the omicron variant presence throughout Houston. This proactive measure by the Houston Health Department is another indication of the City’s dedication to protecting Houstonians," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in a press release. "Although our team has not detected omicron in Houston, we should anticipate it arriving, and the health department is prepared to scale its operations as needed to respond. In the meantime, I encourage eligible Houstonians to get fully vaccinated."

RELATED: Omicron variant: World races to contain new 'highly transmissible' COVID-19 strain

Health officials and the scientific community are researching whether omicron is more transmissible, causes more serious illness, or evades vaccine protection compared to other variants. Results are expected in the coming weeks.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine makers exploring if omicron versions of shots are needed

"While we await data to show the level of threat from Omicron, it’s important to remember that vaccination is our best tool to reduce cases, prevent serious illness and death, and slow the emergence of new variants," said Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston, said in a press release. "If you are not fully vaccinated or if you are eligible for a booster, please do it now to protect yourself, your family, and our community."

RELATED: Omicron variant: WHO says new COVID-19 strain shows increased reinfection risk

Health officials are urging those who are not vaccinated for COVID-19 to sign up and get vaccinated. The vaccinations are free and do not require proof of residency. For a list of health department vaccination sites, click here or call (832) 393-4220. You can also visit most pharmacies and doctor’s offices for the vaccination.