The county of San Diego has registered its first case of COVID-19 caused by the same variant that is suspected to have invaded India, according to the highest responsible for public health in the region.
During an update to the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego’s public health officer, said the case was brought to the attention of her department on Thursday, April 29.
A county representative clarified after Wooten’s remarks that the infection affected a woman in her 20s who had no other medical problems upon her return to San Diego from India in late March. She was hospitalized in early April.
Many obvious questions remain about the region’s first case of B.1.167, the viral variant believed to be driving the harrowing wave of COVID-19 cases in India, leading to a surge in deaths as many sanitary systems are overwhelmed and unable to supply enough supplemental oxygen to meet demand.
The county health department did not disclose whether the woman was vaccinated when she was infected, how many close contacts she had before testing positive, or whether she remains hospitalized. The long period of time between the patient’s hospitalization and the notification to the health department that the Indian variant was the cause is explained, according to one representative, by the long wait times for genetic sequencing.
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Typically, county health officials have said that it can take weeks after a patient tests positive for subsequent sequencing of the viral genetic material needed to determine which variant caused a particular case. Since only a relatively small subset of positive test samples are sequenced, any identification is considered potentially representative of the larger set, meaning that more cases of B.1.167 have likely occurred in the community but simply are not reported. selected for genetic analysis.
The variant is still rare enough in the United States that it has not yet begun to appear in the national prevalence estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Locally, B.1.1.7, the variant first detected in the UK, remains the most dominant type detected in America, causing about 60 percent of cases, according to the CDC. However, these data are only valid until April 10.
Recent news has shown the presence of the Indian variant in Michigan and Iowa. Although variant B.1.167 has much more than two mutations, it is often referred to as a “double” mutant because it shares worrisome mutations with other types, including those that are first detected in California, South Africa and Brazil.
According to a recent update from the World Health Organization, it remains unclear whether the variant is more transmissible or more resistant to vaccination than other types. The studies are still too small to draw firm conclusions, but there may be increased virulence.
Wooten also said Tuesday that San Diego County also detected its first case of a variant that was first detected in New York. A recent pre-publication study found that current vaccines work well against the variant, despite initial concerns that a mutation could have made inoculation significantly less effective.
Although mutant coronavirus types have been prevalent in San Diego County, the overall trajectory of the local pandemic has been consistent. There were 186 additional positive tests announced in Tuesday’s COVID-19 follow-up report, but some of them, the county said, were associated with a “previous batch of tests” that were recently sent to the county. There was also a slight increase in the total number of residents hospitalized for COVID-19 symptoms. That total increased from 138 on Sunday to 156 on Monday.
Wooten indicated that the state’s current COVID-19 emergency is not likely to end anytime soon, although the state has said it intends to end its current staggered reopening system by mid-June.
“We have been informed by the state that the state declaration is anticipated to run through the end of 2021 to continue and support response efforts, including vaccination activities,” Wooten said.
The county recently announced that three of its community vaccination centers will be open from 1 pm to 8 pm to provide access to those who cannot make appointments earlier in the day.
- North Coast Live Well Health Center, 1701 Mission Ave., Oceanside, de domingo a jueves.
- South Region Live Well Center, 690 Oxford St., Chula Vista, de domingo a jueves.
- East Public Health Center, 367 North Magnolia Ave., El Cajon, Tuesday through Saturday.