Lambda, a COVID-19 'variant of interest,' reported in Houston

A patient in Houston with COVID-19.
(Image credit: Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images)

Houston Methodist Hospital has confirmed its first case of the Lambda coronavirus variant, the Texas hospital system announced Tuesday.

First detected in Peru in December, Lambda has been designated as "a variant of interest" by the World Health Organization, and shares mutations in common with the Gamma variant, which is dominant in Brazil. While Lambda is the predominant strain in Peru, health officials say the Delta variant is still the primary concern in the U.S.

"There's a lot more evidence that we have that Delta is much more contagious, the viral loads are much higher," Dr. Wesley Long, medical director of Diagnostic Microbiology at Houston Methodist, told ABC News.

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There are 185 COVID-19 patients in the Houston Methodist Hospital, as of Monday, and 85 percent have been diagnosed with the Delta variant; a majority are unvaccinated. The hospital system said there is an "alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the Houston area, with the steepest increase happening over the weekend. The increased hospitalizations add stress to many of our hospitals that are nearing capacity."

The Delta variant, first detected in India in December, has been designated by WHO as a "variant of concern" and accounts for about 83 percent of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the U.S., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday. In Texas, 51 percent of the population 12 and older is fully vaccinated.

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