UK variant could become dominant in the US by the end of March

South African variant found in Fort Bend County
South African variant found in Fort Bend County

HOUSTON – Two new cases of the UK variant were reported in the Houston area on Monday, including a man in his 50′s who is currently hospitalized, health officials said.

“I think we all knew it was just a matter of time when we would see these variants in Houston,” said Dr. Wesley Long, medical director of clinical microbiology at Houston Methodist Hospital.

The hospital’s lab helped discover the two new cases, along with a case of the South African variant in Fort Bend County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the UK variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said it could become dominant in the U.S. by the end of March.

Even as the number of new coronavirus cases has recently dropped nationally, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told MSNBC that the UK variant could create a tough spring.

“That’s going to dominate the U.S. landscape now as we head into the spring and that means the transmission’s going up and the death rate may also start to spiral upwards as well,” Hotez said.

Long is encouraging people to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

“There is nothing in particular they need to do different with regards to these variants. What we all need to do is recommit to the things that we do to keep us safe from COVID-19,” Long said.

Dr. David Persse, Houston’s health authority, said the city has found evidence of the UK variant in very low levels of its wastewater as well.

Harris County Public Health reported the first known case of the UK variant in Texas on Jan. 7.