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Here's the difference between omicron and delta, 2 COVID-19 variants

Doctors say people infected with omicron are less likely to experience loss of taste or smell.

HOUSTON — In just three weeks, the omicron variant reached a new high in COVID-19 cases in the Houston area, according to the Texas Medical Center’s dashboard.

The weekly average of daily new COVID-19 positive cases was 5,390 the week of Christmas.

It took the delta variant three times as long to reach a peak over the summer.

“The steep rise, nothing like that has happened before. The slope is basically vertical,” said Dr. Loren Hopkins, with the Houston Health Department.

Hopkins said wastewater testing is showing high levels of the virus all over the city. The omicron variant has been detected in almost every water treatment plant in Houston.

The rapid spread shows how much more contagious the omicron variant of COVID-19 is.

Doctors at Memorial Hermann are seeing other differences, too.

“It is feeling a little bit different in that the patients we’re seeing in the hospital are less sick. They’re less likely to go on ventilators. They tend to go home sooner. This is personal experience. We’re still gathering data,” Dr. Linda Yancey said.

Yancey said the symptoms of omicron are slightly different than other versions of COVID, too.

“The one specific symptom of COVID – that loss of taste and smell – appears to be less common in omicron. It really does feel like every influenza you’ve ever had or every cold you’ve ever had,” Yancey said.

She said it’s important to take the time to get tested, so you can try not to spread it to anyone else if you test positive.