Health leaders keep an eye on Delta variant

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:50 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Health experts in the U.S. are keeping an eye on COVID variants, specifically the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.

On Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health said there was only one case of the Delta variant reported in the state, but on Wednesday, ADPH said there are at least seven known cases.

ADPH is applying for millions of dollars in federal money, which will be used for genetic sequencing to learn more about the impact COVID variants have on people.

“The concern is, do we have a strain of this virus that’s easier to spread to someone, do we have a strain that might actually make people more sick than what we’ve been used to, do we have a strain that maybe infects one group of people differently than another group?” said State Health Officer for the ADPH, Dr. Scott Harris.

He said out of the more than 500,000 cases of COVID reported in the state, at least seven of the cases are the Delta strain, which the CDC said is a variant of interest.

“Almost certainly there are more of everything that we don’t know about, more of all the variants, just because we’re only able to get kind of a snapshot of that. What we hope is that it’s sort of a representative percentage, but it’s really hard to say, since some of these variants spread more easily than other ones,” Dr. Harris said.

Dr. Harris said there are a number of labs in the state already doing genetic sequencing of the COVID-19 virus, though it’s not being done routinely.

He said he’d like that to change.

“For example, a breakthrough infection in somebody that’s been vaccinated is something we’re interested in sequencing. If somebody gets COVID more than one time, if it’s there second illness or third illness, we obviously want to sequence that virus,” Dr. Harris explained.

We’ve learned the Delta variant accounts for about 6% of cases sequenced in the United States, but that number is likely higher.

For now, Dr. Harris is encouraging everyone to get the vaccine in hopes of preventing more variants from emerging.

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