Houston area's first case of South African COVID-19 variant reported in Fort Bend County

 Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, Director of the Fort Bend County Health & Human Services Department
Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, announced the first case of the South African variant of COVID-19 in Fort Bend County on Feb. 8. (Courtesy HTV)

Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, announced the first case of the South African variant of COVID-19 in Fort Bend County on Feb. 8. (Courtesy HTV)

The South African COVID-19 variant, which reportedly spreads faster than earlier strains of the virus, has been identified for the first time in the Greater Houston area in Fort Bend County, officials announced Feb. 8.

A Fort Bend County man tested positive for the coronavirus several weeks ago and had traveled within the U.S. in December, said Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Services. The man has since recovered from the illness, and no members of his household contracted the virus, she said.

Houston Methodist has been analyzing all positive lab samples and discovered the South African variant in the man’s test sample Feb. 6, weeks after he recovered from the illness. His case did not resulted in any known workplace exposures; however, his lack of international travel suggests the variant came from community spread, Minter said.

The Houston Health Department has also been tracking the presence of the coronavirus in the city’s wastewater since September and recently discovered “very low” levels of the South African variant, Houston Emergency Medical Director Dr. David Persse said.

The Houston Health Department also received word Feb. 6 of the second and third confirmed cases of the U.K. variant in the area, Persse said. The samples come from two active cases, including one currently hospitalized man in his 50s.

The first case of the U.K. variant in the area was discovered in Harris County in early January.

“The bottom line is that the U.K. variant was not just that one case,” Persse said. “It should be a stark reminder to us that we are far from over.”

Persse and Minter urged residents to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing and proper hygiene to keep the virus at bay.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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