LA COVID-19 test samples show ‘worrying variants’

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LA COVID-19 test samples show 'worrying variants'


Most of the coronavirus samples analyzed in Los Angeles County last week were found to be variants that are believed to spread more easily, officials said.
Although the recent round of screenings come with caveats – the sample size of 73 is a fraction of the new infections that are confirmed every day in the county and the samples themselves were not screened in the county. coincidence – this indicates that some viral mutations continue to circulate throughout the county. .

“The fact that the majority of the specimens sampled are variants of concern suggests that these variants are becoming more prevalent in our community,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. “And it underscores the importance of respecting safety measures such as masking, social distancing, and regular hand washing to avoid increasing the chances of the worrisome variants becoming more prevalent.”

Health officials are worried about a wider spread of the most infectious mutations, which could potentially fuel another wave the county and California cannot afford after emerging from the devastating wave so recently. fall and winter.

Of the 73 samples analyzed at the county public health laboratory last week, 21 were found to be a particularly troubling and highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK.

This variant, known as B.1.1.7, is believed to be up to 50% more transmissible than other widely disseminated variants, and a study published this month in the journal Nature suggests it is 61 % more likely to cause serious illness or death.

Twenty-five other test samples showed the California variant, known to scientists as B.1.427 / B.1.429.

Like the UK variant, it has been officially labeled a “variant of concern” by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – because studies have shown the strain to be around 20% more transmissible than other widely distributed variants.

Ferrer said the latest results in LA County must be interpreted “very carefully”.

“This is a practical sample, which means that in some cases we sample specimens because we have been asked to sample them for variants, sometimes it is because there may be an association with a cluster and we’re trying to figure out if there are any variations with this cluster, ”she said in a briefing. “But this is not a scientifically selected random sample. ”

Nonetheless, she added that “it’s probably very safe to say that there are more variants in circulation now than there were earlier in the year. ”

“That’s what everyone worries about,” she said. “If we reduce the number of cases, we also reduce the transmission of variants.”

Of the 871 sequencing tests the county has performed to date, 379 specimens have been found to be the California variant and 76 have been the UK variant, according to figures presented Wednesday by Ferrer.

The county has yet to find cases of two other variants of concern: P.1, from Brazil, or B.1.351, from South Africa.

Nationally, for the four-week period that ended February 27, 12.9% of genomically sequenced coronavirus samples were identified as the California variant, while 9.5% were the variant British, according to CDC data.

Times editor Melissa Healy contributed to this report.

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