Missouri is experiencing a rise in individuals contracting the Delta variant (B.1.617.2, first detected in India) of the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. It was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday that the Delta variant has been reclassified as a “variant of concern” in the United States. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has been closely monitoring these developments and has been on the national leading edge of aggressive wastewater testing for variants of concern.
The Delta variant joins the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427/B.1.429 (Epsilon) variants circulating in the United States are already classified as variants of concern.
Deemed highly transmissible, the Delta virus has already been detected in over 70 countries globally and is projected to become dominant worldwide. It is also causing more serious illness and hospitalizations among those who have not been vaccinated.
Monitoring the spread of emerging variants in the United States relies on widespread, rapid sequencing. While this national effort is still somewhat limited, it is clear that the variant has become prevalent in communities throughout Missouri. In February, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began testing wastewater samples to look for the presence of these variants. These testing results are displayed in a new layer of the COVID-19 sewershed surveillance StoryMap.
The unpredictability of emerging variants is cause for the continuation of infection prevention precautions.
“Our greatest concern in Missouri is areas with lower vaccine uptake,” said Robert Knodell, Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). “With this variant being easier to spread and possibly causing more severe illnesses among unvaccinated people of all ages, vaccinations are the best way to stop this virus in its tracks.”
This recent rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant underscores the importance of continued testing for COVID-19 of all those with related symptoms, as well as those who have been exposed to the virus but may not have symptoms.
Social distancing and appropriate masking remain important and effective public health countermeasures. Vaccination is the most effective and long-lasting tool for protection from this infection. DHSS continues to encourage anyone age 12 and up to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines and where to get vaccinated at MOStopsCovid.com.