Houston Health Department is leading an antibody testing survey to better understand the spread of COVID-19 in Houston.

The Houston Health Department is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine to conduct an antibody testing survey to understand how many people in the city were previously infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Phase one took place September 8-19. Results showed:

  • An estimated 13.5% (approximately 250,000) of Houstonians previously had Covid-19 antibodies by September 2020. At that time only 57,000 infections were identified by traditional viral testing. This indicates that potentially four times as many people had contracted COVID-19 in Houston than was previously known.
  • A higher proportion of individuals with COVID-19 antibodies lived in high-positivity-rate areas (18%) of the city than those who lived in low-positivity-rate areas (10%).
  • More women (17%) than men (10%) had antibodies.
  • More Hispanics (18%) and Blacks (15%) had antibodies than non-Hispanic whites (5%),
  • More people under 40 years of age (17%) than 40 and older (9%) had COVID-19 antibodies in their blood.

Data released by the city is based on blood collected from volunteers in randomly selected households and tested for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, an indication of previous infection. Samples from 678 residents were collected.

Survey teams will conduct phase two of the survey later in 2021. People who participated in phase one will be re-tested to measure the number of antibodies remaining in their blood. Teams consisting of Houston Health Department staff and Houston Fire Department paramedics will also visit 420 new random Houston homes to ask for voluntary blood samples.

Only homes approached by the teams are eligible to participate, and participation is voluntary. The teams will be identifiable by their Better. Together. shirts.

Antibody testing does not replace oral or nasal swab viral testing that looks for current infection, available at free sites across Houston.

Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research is providing communication and outreach support for the survey. The survey is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Visit the Houston Health Department website for more details.


Spread the Word

The following toolkit serves as a guide for outreach when speaking to communities about the survey. This document contains general information about the survey, with key messages, fast facts, sample social media content, relevant URLs and hashtags for your use.