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5 new cases of UK coronavirus variant found in Clark County

Updated February 2, 2021 - 7:55 pm

Five additional cases of the more contagious new coronavirus strain first identified in the U.K. have been detected in Clark County, the Southern Nevada Health District said late Tuesday.

These new cases all are close contacts of a first case announced Jan. 25, the health district said in a news release. These specimens were collected by the Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory and sent to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory in Reno for genetic sequencing to confirm the strain.

The finding comes as Nevada’s public health laboratories have been expanding their capability to detect the new strains, or variants, among the positive tests they process.

The U.K. strain has alarmed public health officials across the globe not only because it spreads more easily but because there is limited evidence suggesting it may be more lethal. There also are concerns that vaccines may not be as effective on the new strains.

As of Tuesday, the Reno lab had conducted 832 genetic sequences on positive tests since mid-December, said Mark Pandori, director of the lab at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. The lab has found no cases of the U.K. strain outside of Clark County, or of other newly identified strains first detected in Brazil and Southern Africa. This leads Pandori to believe that none is widespread in Nevada, though any could be present.

“I’m reasonably confident that it (a variant) is not at a high level,” Pandori said in an interview Tuesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 541 cases of the U.K. variant have been identified in 33 states. Three cases of the South Africa strain have been identified in two states. And two cases of the Brazil strain have been identified in one state.

Nevada’s improved ability to detect news strains through higher-volume testing and enhanced laboratory capability makes it possible to counteract them through public health measures such as contact tracing, Pandori said.

“I’m not saying we’re gonna win or stomp it out entirely,” Pandori said. “But we have capabilities now that we didn’t have before. And we have an awareness of it before it’s likely here. And those are advantages on our side.”

The additional cases of the U.K. strain in Clark County include two females and three males. The females are both under the age of 18. One of the males is an adult in his 30s, and the other two are both under the age of 18. All patients have recovered, and none reported recent travel history, the health district said.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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