The newest coronavirus variant has surfaced in Wisconsin, and the state will begin tracking its presence in case counts, health officials reported Wednesday.
The finding reinforces the importance of getting a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health Services (DHS).
DHS reported that 26 cases of people infected with the new variant B.1.617.2, or Delta, of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been identified in Wisconsin.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified Delta as a “variant of concern.” That category covers those virus mutations that are more contagious, cause more serious illness or are more difficult to treat.
“Wisconsin continues to report an increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases across the state that are variants of concern,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in a DHS announcement. “We urge Wisconsinites to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting vaccinated. The sooner people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the less opportunity for the virus to keep mutating.”
The Delta variant, first encountered in India in October 2020, is believed to be the cause of a recent increase in coronavirus infections in the United Kingdom, according to DHS. DHS reported Wednesday that Delta “spreads more rapidly and easily” than the original coronavirus strain.
“There is some evidence to suggest that therapeutics, such as monoclonal antibody treatments, may be less effective against this variant because of its unique mutations,” the DHS announcement states. According to the agency, some laboratory studies suggest that “antibodies produced by the body in response to natural infection or a COVID-19 vaccine may be less effective at defending against the Delta variant virus than the original strain.”
Even so, according to DHS, “the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have shown they provide some protection against the Delta variant.”
Public health officials recommend widespread vaccination, along with public health measures to prevent the virus from spreading, to help reduce the opportunities for the virus to develop new mutations.
The website Vaccine.gov enables people to find vaccination sites in their area.
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