Vaccines should prove effective against new COVID variant
A COVID-19 variant thought to be more transmissible and less susceptible to treatment may already be widespread throughout Nevada County, according to public health officials.
On Tuesday the county announced the first known case of variant B.1.429, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a variation of concern due to its “moderate resistance” to neutralization from antibodies and high viral RNA load.
The variant was identified through genomic sequencing after someone was re-infected with COVID-19 in February.
“Because it is currently so difficult to get whole genomic sequencing, we do not know how widespread this particular variant is and if there are others circulating in Nevada County, but it is safe to assume that there are,” Deputy Public Health Officer Glennah Trochet said in a press release.
While it wasn’t the first case of suspected re-infection that might have been caused from a new strain, it was the first that was able to be genetically sequenced.
According to public health officials, specimens were not able to be tested in other cases of suspected reinfection within the county.
Health officials said sequencing is requested in all cases of suspected reinfection or infection of a fully vaccinated person, but explained it can be difficult to get done since many pieces need to fall in place.
Officials must learn of the case within two days of infection, get cooperation from the infected individual, have an available specimen sample with high enough viral levels, and the testing lab must then be willing to ship the specimen for sequencing.
“In this case everything aligned so we could get the specimen tested,” Trochet said.
According to research from University of California, San Francisco, the variant has twice the viral RNA of the more common coronavirus strain and can be two to six times more resistant to antibodies.
The study found the variant six times more resistant to antibodies among those already infected with COVID-19 and twice as resistant among people who have been vaccinated. But due to the high efficacy of vaccinations, it’s expected vaccine-elicited antibodies will remain effective against the strain.
In the study, the variant was found in 21% of 44 California counties tested between September and January. In that same period the frequency of the variant grew from zero percent to over 50% of the sequenced samples.
The study took five samples from Nevada County, with one sample containing the new variant. The study also took five samples from Placer County, but no new variants were found.
According to public health officials, people who have previously had COVID-19 are at risk of re-infecting with this variant, particularly when it’s been more than 90 days from the initial infection, “when immunity has waned.”
A small percentage of fully immunized people may also still be at risk of re-infection, according to public health officials.
“This is just another reminder that this pandemic is not over,” Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann said in a press release.
“We’re seeing our case rates rise and are concerned about the increasing numbers of infections in younger adults. We must do everything we can to limit the spread. I’m asking every individual to do their part — wear a mask, avoid gatherings, and get vaccinated.”
The county releases vaccine appointments on myturn.ca.gov every Friday at noon.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
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Western Sierra Medical Clinic has announced that Family Nurse Practitioner Lora Lee Grutkowski has retired from employment with the nonprofit health center effective March 12.