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More-contagious Indian coronavirus variant detected in Clark County

Updated May 12, 2021 - 7:04 pm

The Southern Nevada Health District said Tuesday that it had detected the first known case in Clark County of a potentially more infectious coronavirus strain first spotted in India.

The strain, or variant, was detected in a COVID-19 test sample whose genetic code was analyzed, or “sequenced,” by the Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory.

The Clark County resident who tested positive for what is officially known as the B.1.617.2 variant is a woman in her 20s who did not report any recent travel.

The woman, who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, did not require hospitalization.

An investigation of the woman’s contacts is underway, the health district said in a news release. Through disease investigation and contact tracing, close contacts are urged to self-quarantine to avoid spreading the disease to others if they are infected.

There have been eight other reported cases of Indian variants in the state: four in Washoe County, two in Carson City, one in Churchill County and one in Lyon County, said Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory at University of Nevada, Reno’s School of Medicine. Within the state, the lab conducts the majority of sequencing of the virus that causes COVID-19.

There are likely many more cases, as only a small percentage of positive tests for COVID-19 undergo genetic analysis.

The World Health Organization on Monday designated B.1.617, of which B.1.617.2 is a subtype, a “variant of concern,” meaning that it is thought to spread more easily, evade immunity produced by vaccination or infection, or cause more severe disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the B.1617.2 as a “variant of interest,” which means that it has certain genetic markers that make it potentially more dangerous.

The Indian variants are thought to be contributing to the catastrophic spread of disease in that country. U.S. public health authorities are concerned that rising numbers of variants also could undermine efforts to curb the virus in this country.

“We have made tremendous steps in our efforts to stop the pandemic in our community,” Dr. Fermin Leguen, district health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District, said in the news release. “However, the identification of another COVID-19 variant is a reminder that while many of us are fully vaccinated and enjoying activities with family and friends again, the pandemic isn’t over, and we must continue to take steps to protect ourselves and other people.”

Data suggests that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use offer protection against most variants, the district said.

According to the district, the following variants of concern have been detected to date in Clark County: 242 cases of the U.K. strain B.1.1.7; five cases of South African strain B.1.351; five cases of California strain B.1.429; and 28 cases of Brazilian strain P.1.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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