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Watch: New Brazilian Variant Discovered In Oregon Has Been Here Since January

Douglas County, Oregon – The new Brazilian variant of covid found in Oregon making national news, has actually been here since January. It just took a month of delays to get test results back from the CDC to local health officials. The CDC just informed the local health officials in Douglas county of southwest Oregon this week, that one of their cases from back in January had the new P-1 Brazilian variant. In a new youtube video, Douglas County Public Health Officer Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer says the new P-1 variant is twice as contagious as the original, it could be more contaegous, more deadly, and vaccines may not work as well against it. Which is very worrisome.

So far there are only about ten cases confirmed in the US of the new variant, this is the first on the entire west coast. The infected person from Douglas county was traveling on business back in January and came back sick from Brazil to Douglas county. They were tested and have been self isolating.

In order to determine which variant of covid a person has – they have to do a special test known as gnomic sequencing. Dr. Dannenhoffer says the U.S. is terrible at gnomic sequencing – because we are only sequencing about 1 out of every 300 samples – and takes a month to get back results. Where other countries are sequencing 100% of samples and getting results in a week’s time.

Here’s more from Douglas County Health Network:

JOINT INFORMATION CENTER PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 2, 2021

DOUGLAS COUNTY COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM – DAILY UPDATE

(Douglas County, Ore.)  Douglas County COVID-19 Test Results:  As of 12:00 pm Today, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, there are TWENTY-FIVE (25) people with new positive test results to report since our noon case update yesterday.  The total number of cases (people with positive test results and presumptives) in Douglas County is now at 2,519*.  Currently, there are SEVENTEEN (17) Douglas County COVID-19 patients that are being hospitalized, thirteen locally and four out-of-the-area. Our Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team, under the direction of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, continue to devote all resources available to our local COVID response.

Douglas County Reports First COVID-19 P.1 Variant in Oregon and on the West Coast  

Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, our Douglas County Public Health Officer, has confirmed the first positive case related to the COVID-19 P.1 variant in Douglas County.  This cases marks the first case of the P.1 variant in Oregon, as well as the first case on the west coast of the United States.  There have only been 10 other cases of the P.1 variant reported in the United States, in Minnesota (2), Florida (5), Oklahoma (1), Alaska (1) and Maryland (1). The P.1 variant confirmed last night from a swab sent to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) for genome sequence testing, appears to be related to business travel outside the United States to and from Brazil.

DPHN sent a sample of a local COVID-19 test swab to the CDC in at the end of January 2021, for a genome sequence DNA test, and they received the results back last night for the positive P.1 variant.  Douglas County is among one of the few counties that continues to investigate, track and support all local COVID-19 cases in our county, via our incredibly, dedicated epidemiological teams at Douglas Public Health Network.   It is through the continued diligence of the County, DPHN and the Epi-Team staff that we have recognized and corrected discrepancies in the state system, identified anomalies with testing facilities, traced and supported hundreds of residents in isolation and quarantine, and submitted samples to the CDC for variant testing.  The COVID-19 P.1 variant was first detected in people travelling from Brazil to Japan in early 2021. The P.1 variant has been seen mostly in Brazil, but there have been cases in Japan, as well as the United Kingdom.  The P.1 variant has 17 mutations from the original virus and appears to be more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain.  There is concern that the current COVID-19 vaccines, and those that have contracted the previous virus will have less protection and immunity.  Local Public Health shares in the worry with the CDC, OHA and the entire scientific community, that the COVID-19 variants could be more infectious, perhaps more deadly, and maybe less well controlled by our current vaccine.  It is important to note that local public health is also awaiting results of other samples that were sent to the CDC for genome sequence DNA testing for COVID-19 variants.

What is a Virus Variant and What Does It Mean?

Shared in part from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC).  It is well known that viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States, and globally during this pandemic.

In the United States, cases have been reported linked to the B.1.1.7 variant (2,400 cases, and identified by the United Kingdom in Fall of 2020), the B.1.351 variant (53 cases and identified in South Africa in October 2020) and the P.1 variant (10 cases and first identified from travelers from Brazil in January 2021).  In Oregon, we have only seen 10 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant reported.  Click on this link to view a map from the CDC showing the number of confirmed COVID-19 variant cases by state: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/transmission/variant-cases.html

Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally.  These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.  Information about the characteristics of these COVID-19 variants is rapidly emerging. Scientists are working to learn more about how easily they spread, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against them.  It has been reported that the B.1.1.7 variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. It has since been detected in many countries around the world. The B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in the US at the end of December 2020.  In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 emerged independently of B.1.1.7.  Originally detected in early October 2020, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant have been reported in the United States at the end of January 2021.  In Brazil, a variant called P.1 emerged that was first identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies.  This variant was first detected in the US at the end of January 2021.

Scientists worldwide continue to monitor changes in the COVID-19 virus, including changes to the spikes on the surface of the virus, which indicate a mutation. These studies, including genetic analyses of the virus, are helping scientists understand how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and what happens to people who are infected with it.  So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.  A news story released yesterday from the NY Times, titled, “Virus Variant in Brazil Infected Many Who Had Already Recovered From COVID-19”, provides more insight into the P.1 variant sweeping Brazil.  “The first detailed studies of the so-called P.1 variant show how it devastated a Brazilian city. Now scientists want to know what it will do elsewhere,” stated reporter Carl Zimmer. “In just a matter of weeks, two variants of the coronavirus have become so familiar that you can hear their inscrutable alphanumeric names regularly uttered on television news.  B.1.1.7, first identified in Britain, has demonstrated the power to spread far and fast. In South Africa, a mutant called B.1.351 can dodge human antibodies, blunting the effectiveness of some vaccines.  Scientists have also had their eye on a third concerning variant that arose in Brazil, called P.1. Research had been slower on P.1 since its discovery in late December, leaving scientists unsure of just how much to worry about it.  “I’ve been holding my breath,” said Bronwyn MacInnis, an epidemiologist at the Broad Institute. Now three studies offer a sobering history of P.1’s meteoric rise in the Amazonian city of Manaus. It most likely arose there in November and then fueled a record-breaking spike of coronavirus cases. It came to dominate the city partly because of an increased contagiousness, the research found.” Click here to read the rest of the story.

What this means for our residents is that rigorous and increased compliance with proven public health recommendations, such as getting the COVID-19 vaccine, physical distancing from others not in your household, the use of masks and face coverings, proper and frequent hand washing, staying home when you are sick, and isolation and quarantine, are essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, to protect you, your family, your friends, local businesses and our communities.

COVID-19 Related Death of a Douglas County Resident

Our Douglas County Public Health Officer, Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer, has confirmed the death of another Douglas County resident related to the COVID-19 virus. Our fifty-fifth death is a 91-year-old woman who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday, February 19, 2021 and passed away on Sunday, February 28, 2021. In the interest of privacy for the loved ones of these residents, no additional information will be released.  Each death related to COVID-19 is painful for all Douglas County residents, and a sad reminder of the terrible impact COVID-19 has had in our local communities. The Douglas County Board of Commissioners, Dr. Dannenhoffer, DPHN and the DCCRT team extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to all family members, friends, relatives, co-workers and community members of those who have passed after contracting this deadly virus.

Local Contacts and Cases Being Supported in Isolation and Quarantine

Today, was a record day for the largest number of contacts to be recorded in one day, 206.  Currently, DPHN is supporting 196 cases in isolation, as well as another 682 contacts in quarantine in Douglas County. Isolation is recommended for confirmed and presumptive cases, quarantine is recommended for contacts of confirmed or presumptive cases.  Currently, staff is supporting an astounding 872 total contacts and cases in isolation or quarantine.  This number represents a snapshot of the significant amount of work being done locally to help control the spread of COVID.

 


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