MO DHSS identifies omicron variant in wastewater samples in Jackson County

Posted at 4:45 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 17:45:58-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), in partnership with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and others, has identified the presence of the omicron variant in two wastewater samples, one of them in Jackson County.

The two samples were taken from the Little Blue Valley Sewer District Atherton/Middle Big Creek wastewater treatment facility sewersheds in Jackson County and the St. Joseph wasterwater treatment facility sewershed in Buchanan County.

"In both wastewater systems, 2% of the COVID-19 viral strands were identified as having mutations associated with Omicron," a release from DHSS said. "This measurement is not a direct estimate of the percent of COVID-19 positive human cases in the area that are caused by the Omicron variant. Rather, it is only an indication that the Omicron variant virus is likely present among the population in these sewershed areas."

The samples were taken on Dec. 7th and 8th.

The team testing the samples uses a technique called "high throughput sequencing" that looks for mutations in segments of the virus's spike protein to identify known variants. The findings are published weekly and displayed on a surveillance map.

“As we anticipated, due to the known high transmissibility, the Omicron variant is in Missouri communities,” Donald Kauerauf, DHSS director, said. “Understanding that Omicron is in our state, we need to continue to be vigilant in taking proven measures to protect ourselves from this and the delta virus that continues to be the dominant variant. Those who haven’t been vaccinated are highly encouraged to do so. If it is time for your booster, it is critically important to get your booster today to maximize your protection. Getting the booster greatly improves your protection from Omicron. These are the same measures we’ve recommended all along and continue to be effective in decreasing your chance of getting sick and being hospitalized.”