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Newly detected 'stealth omicron' COVID variant might be 'slightly more contagious'

Doctors say COVID-19 PCR tests do detect the variant. It's called stealth omicron because it causes false results with a certain kind of variant test.

HOUSTON — The omicron variant of COVID-19 caused the biggest case surge in Houston since the beginning of the pandemic.

RELATED: Doctors think the Houston area is getting close to the peak of this COVID wave

Now, another variant called “stealth omicron,” has been detected in the city.

Two cases have been identified at Houston Methodist. They’re the first two cases in the state. Dr. Wesley Long leads the genome sequencing lab that found the variant.

RELATED: 'The system is overwhelmed' | Houston nurses say they're short-staffed and worn out

“Stealth omicron is similarly contagious maybe slightly more contagious, but we don’t have any reason to believe it’s any more severe,” Long said.

He said stealth omicron is also showing up in other parts of the world. There are only a few dozen cases in the United States.

“It sounds frightening, but the reason it’s called 'stealth omicron' is because the rapid test that a lot of places use to differentiate – is it omicron or is it delta - that test will falsely look like a delta variant, not an omicron variant,” Long said.

The good news is all COVID-19 tests do detect this new variant.

Long doesn’t think stealth omicron should cause any more concern than regular omicron, but he does think everyone should be prepared for more problem variants in the future until more of the world has access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

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