EXCLUSIVE: Omicron ‘sub-variant’ discovered in South Texas border county | Radio WGN 720

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McALLEN, TX (Border report) – Health officials say they discovered a “subvariant” of the omicron variant of COVID-19 among five new cases in Hidalgo County, southern Texas, which means the virus has mutated again, learned Border Report.

In an exclusive interview Thursday morning, Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Administrative Director Eduardo “Eddie” Olivarez told Border Report that there are now more than 20,000 coronavirus cases detected in this county. border county since December 23, including 10 cases of omicron. variant.

Among the 10 cases of omicron in Hidalgo County, scientists have discovered a new mutated form, which is the subvariant.

Olivarez said the subvariant detected, however, does not necessarily mean the virus is worse than earlier forms.

“We have 10 confirmed omicron cases, but we have our first confirmed omicron subvariant. Is it a more serious illness? No. It’s just a different molecular structure,” he said via a Zoom interview.

, Eduardo “Eddie” Olivarez, Hidalgo County Health and Human Services General Manager (Border Report/Zoom Photo)

The explosion of cases is so high along the border in the Rio Grande Valley that state and FEMA health officials will open a “regional” drive-thru testing site at City Park next Wednesday. Edinburgh at 714 S. Raul Longoria Road in Edinburg, Texas.

There have been at least 2,000 new coronavirus cases in Hidalgo County just since Monday, he said.

Olivarez said scientists have already identified more than 30 different variants of the coronavirus strain, including the delta and omicron forms. And he said they are constantly working to discover more, as well as sub-variants of each strain.

Several news reports, including those from India, have identified at least three subvariants of the omicron strain of COVID-19. India Time, calls the “sibling” subvariants of omicron, the third of which was detected in England on December 3.

Olivarez said not everyone tested for the coronavirus receives their sample to assess their strain.

Testing for the omicron strain and other variants can only be done at the state level, by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), or by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The process is quite intense and involves specialized equipment and personnel. It includes the study of more than “300 different segmentations” of the virus sample.

He said only a random “sample” of tests are sent from hospitals and “big box” pharmacies to be assessed.

Test results can take up to three weeks for local authorities to receive the results. In the meantime, there may be significant community spread, which appears to be occurring on the southern border of Texas and Mexico.

Knowing that the omicron variant is highly contagious and spreads quickly, Olivarez said he and other Hidalgo County health officials strongly believe the high rates of new cases are of the omicron strain, but they don’t. no conclusive results yet. .

Other border communities are also reporting a large spike in cases, such as Tijuana, Mexico, with a positivity rate of 74%.

“Mother Nature is very powerful. Mother Nature will always win out,” Olivarez said. “Viruses are part of Mother Nature. Viruses adapt and change. A virus is the simplest form of life designed to multiply. and feed It will adapt to its food source – humans and it will adapt to the growth of the spread.

Mother Nature is very powerful. Mother Nature will always win… Viruses are part of Mother Nature. Viruses adapt and change. A virus is the simplest form of life designed to multiply and feed itself. It will adapt to its food source – humans and it will adapt to propagation growth.

Eduardo “Eddie” Olivarez, Hidalgo County General Manager of Health and Human Services

Olivarez said TDSHS and the Texas Department of Emergency Management are working with the University of Texas and its affiliated campuses to launch the regional coronavirus testing site in the Rio Grande Valley. He said he hopes the site will be up and running for at least 21 days, during which time all testing will be free.

The site will offer free tests, which it says have become very hard to find.

“It’s going to be something that’s going to help us a lot,” Olivarez said. “We are very pleased to have this FEMA TDEM test site operational next week.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at [email protected]

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