HOUSTON — The B.117 variant from the UK is spreading quickly in Houston, just like in other parts of the country.
Now, the highly contagious variant makes up more than half of new cases at Houston Methodist. Dr. James Musser runs the hospital’s genome sequencing lab where they analyze every positive COVID-19 test.
“There’s no question, it is the dominant variant,” Musser said. “Between 50 to 60% of new cases are that variant.”
Methodist saw the first case of the UK variant in January. Now, they’ve detected more than 1,600 cases cumulatively, which illustrates how quickly this version of the virus spreads.
Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious diseases expert with the Baylor College of Medicine, said young people are especially at risk right now.
“It’s more contagious from person to person. It causes worsening disease. We’re seeing higher rates of severe disease among young people compared to what we saw in the past. We’re seeing hospitalization rates among young people,” Hotez said.
He said cases are rising in other parts of the country where the UK variant makes up more than 60% of cases. Hotez said Texas has also hit that threshold.
“There’s no question this is a fourth peak we’re starting to see across the country. The only thing I can’t tell you is what that fourth peak will look like. Is it a small hill or is it going to be a big mountain?” Hotez said.
The CDC said young people, who haven’t been the focus of vaccination efforts, are the ones spreading the virus most right now. That’s why doctors urge everyone to get the shot as soon as they can.