Omicron variant rising in MO
(KBSI) – The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reports that more than half of community sewershed samples tested from the week of Dec. 20 showed presence of the Omicron variant.
DHSS partners with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the University of Missouri – Columbia, wastewater operators, and others to monitor COVID-19 trends by testing wastewater in communities throughout the state. This team has been testing wastewater samples to look for the presence of variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 for nearly a year.
Sequencing tests identified the first presence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) from two sets of sewershed samples collected on Dec. 7-8 in Jackson County and Buchanan County. In both wastewater systems, COVID-19 viral strands were identified as having mutations associated with Omicron which indicated that the Omicron variant virus is likely present among the population in these sewershed areas.
During expanded testing the week of Dec. 20, 32 of 57 samples had mutations associated with Omicron variant. Those locations included Farmington East, Perryville Southeast and Cape Girardeau in southeast Missouri.
Other locations with samples that had mutations associated with Omicron variant include three Kansas City facilities (Blue River, Westside, and Birmingham), seven St. Louis facilities (Lemay, Grand Glaize, Coldwater Creek, Bissell Point, Fenton, Lower Meramec, and Missouri River), five St. Charles County facilities (St. Peters Spencer Creek, Duckett Creek Sewer District WWTF #1, Duckett Creek Sewer District WWTF #2, O’Fallon, and Wentzville), Branson (Cooper Creek and Compton Drive), Springfield Northwest, Interim Saline Creek Regional, Troy Southeast, Columbia, St. Joseph, Atherton, Nixa, West Plains, Washington, Oak Grove, Festus – Crystal City and Joplin Turkey Creek.
“Our robust program for monitoring COVID-19 through sewershed sampling provides us with reliable information regarding the presence of the virus and its variants,” said Donald Kauerauf, DHSS Director. “The existence of the Omicron variant is becoming much more prevalent each week, making the actions of COVID-19 individual testing, vaccination and other mitigation measures more important as we already face the threat of the Delta variant and an increase in flu cases.”
DHSS recommends that residents follow prevention strategies such as wearing a mask in public indoor settings, frequent handwashing and maintaining physical distance from others.
Kauerauf encourages testing before and after holiday gatherings.
Public health experts worldwide are working to learn more about the Omicron variant and how it may impact the health and safety of citizens. The disease severity caused by Omicron is still unknown. Scientists are also studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against Omicron.
Visit Health.Mo.Gov to learn more about Missouri’s variant monitoring efforts.
Everyone 5 years and older is highly encouraged to protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated (and boosted if age 16 and older). Missourians should also take the opportunity to get their annual influenza vaccination as part of their risk reduction activities to protect themselves and others from seasonal respiratory illness.
Travelers to the U.S. should continue to follow CDC recommendations for safe traveling. Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines in Missouri at MOStopsCovid.com.
How Missourians can get a free COVID-19 vaccine:
- Check for vaccine appointments at Vaccines.gov, where you can search for availability by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer).
- Call the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (or TTY 1-888-720-7489). Help is available in multiple languages.
- Locate local vaccination events in Missouri at MOStopsCovid.com.
- Seniors and homebound adults can make arrangements using information at MOStopsCovid.com/seniors
- Missouri DHSS COVID-19 Public Hotline: 1-877-435-8411
- Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
How Missourians can get a free COVID-19 test:
- Walk in or schedule an appointment for a test at one of the state’s free community testing sites: COVID-19 Community Testing Sites.
- Order a test through the state’s free at-home COVID-19 testing program.
- Find a free testing option near you through the federal pharmacy locations.