Coronavirus: Texas hospital system confirms its 1st case of COVID-19 lambda variant

HOUSTON — As the state reels from increased hospitalizations being driven by the rampant delta variant, a major Texas hospital system has confirmed its first case of the emergent COVID-19 lambda variant.

Houston Methodist Hospital, whose network includes eight hospitals, confirmed the case Monday involving what the World Health Organization has deemed a “variant of interest,” ABC News reported.

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Meanwhile, the system confirmed that COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 70% during the past week, attributing the influx primarily to the widespread delta mutation, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Specifically, Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom wrote in an email to hospital staff that was shared with the Chronicle that the system was treating 184 COVID-19 patients Monday morning, or roughly twice the number on record July 1. Nearly all of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated against the virus, and about 85% are infected with the delta variant of the virus, he stated.

First detected in Peru in December 2020, the lambda mutation currently accounts for an estimated 81% of that nation’s total COVID-19 cases sequenced since April, ABC News reported, citing WHO data.

“The lambda is the dominant variant in Peru, and Peru has had a very difficult time with COVID-19. (Lambda) shares mutations in common with the alpha variants, the beta, the gamma, which is the dominant variant in Brazil,” Dr. Wesley Long, medical director of Diagnostic Microbiology at Houston Methodist, told the network.

“I don’t think there’s sufficient evidence at this point that we should be more concerned about lambda than delta. I still think delta is the primary concern for us. There’s a lot more evidence that we have that delta is much more contagious, the viral loads are much higher,” he added.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Delta variant accounts for 83% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in US, CDC director says

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lambda variant has been responsible for 800 U.S. COVID-19 cases to date, and 30 of those cases have been confirmed in the past month, the Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, total COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have increased by more than 75% to 2,500, compared with the 1,428 beds in use on June 27, the newspaper reported.

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