DENVER (KDVR) — A new coronavirus variant has been identified in five people in Mesa County, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced Thursday.
The B.1.617.2 variant was first identified in India. Public health officials said in a press conference the variant is potentially more transmissible than other strains. It’s unclear how the variant stacks up against the COVID-19 vaccine, but early data suggests there is minimal impact on vaccine efficacy.
India is currently fighting a catastrophic wave of the virus with more than 400,000 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to more than 21 million total.
Dr. Lakshmi Chauhan, infectious disease specialist with UCHealth, says there’s no reason to believe the discovery of this variant in Colorado will result in a similar surge.
“It is my feeling it won’t be very different from the other variants we have seen,” said Chauhan.
Chauhan says there are many variants circulating Colorado. The virus will continue to mutate in order to survive as more people are vaccinated.
“The main issue is the need to continue with vaccination. If you have a significant amount of vaccinated people, then it’s hard for the virus, no matter the variant, to circulate sufficiently in the population,” said Chauhan.
She says scientists at the state and national level will be studying this new variant to determine how it compares to previous strains. It’s currently classified as a ‘Variant of Interest’ by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re doing more surveillance — CDPHE and the whole United States is doing more genotyping and more surveillance to keep on top of these (variants). They will inform us if they find any trends which are different from others,” said Chauhan.
Members of UCHealth’s medical staff are helping those currently fighting the crisis in India. GoFundMe was set up to help send supplies to the country.