The first case of the New York Covid Variant B.1.526 was confirmed in Dallas on March 12th. This variant is currently the dominant variant in New York and spreading rapidly across the country. Reports indicate the Dallas resident who contracted the variant had no travel history outside of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex indicating this variant is already present in the community.
A March 12 Dallas country press release reported 401 additional positive Covid-19 cases in Dallas County. The new totals are 249,011 PCR test confirmed cases and a cumulative total of 37,073 probable cases.
Dallas also reported an increase in the number of cases of the UK B.1.1.7 variant. The B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in the United Kingdom but has rapidly spread worldwide. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) data shows this new variant is now present in all 50 US states. Current data projections suggest it will become the predominant strain in the US in the next few weeks.
The B.1.1.7 variant is more contagious due to a mutation in the receptor on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. While this variant is more contagious, it is uncertain at this time if it is more lethal.
A new March report from the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) contains concerning findings. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) summarized the results as “ evidence suggests the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared with other variants.”
Reuters reports UK health officials are concerned early data may demonstrate the B.1.1.7 may be more contagious in children and infants.
Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins released a written statement saying, “The emergence of these strains is another strong reason to continue to wear a mask, social distance, wash hands frequently, avoid crowds and forego get-togethers. By practicing the fact-based approaches that provided protection for the past year coupled with registering in as many places as you are willing to drive, and being vaccinated as soon as it is your turn, we will beat COVID-19 this year.”
It is essential to know that new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, are expected. Viruses naturally mutate. Some mutations will persist while others fade away. Scientists study the genetic changes of the virus to monitor for potential threats.
While there are many identified SARS-CoV-2 mutations, there are three under a higher level of scrutiny. The B.1.1.7 (UK variant) is being monitored because it spreads so quickly. Epidemiologists are also closely watching the B.1.35 South African and the P1 Brazilian variant.
Data suggests these three variants are more contagious and spread faster than others. A sudden spike in one of these variants could potentially strain health resources as states try to scale out vaccination rollouts as fast as possible.
The good news is evidence so far indicates the currently available Covid-19 tests can accurately detect these variants. In addition, the FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccines are effective against these variants. Vaccine efficacy studies are in progress and are being closely monitored.
The current FDA-approved vaccines from Moderna, Phizer, and Johnson and Johnson are still effective against the B.1.1.7 variant. The Moderna and Phizer vaccines offer 95% protection against Covid-19. Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine offers 72% protection against infection and 86% against severe disease.
All three are highly effective in preventing death. To date, 3,275 Dallas County residents have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
To get your vaccine, you must register. Follow the links below to get started: