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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A third variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, was discovered in Iowa, state public health officials said Tuesday.
The Iowa Department of Public Health said it has confirmed two cases of the variant, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.
Health officials are still unaware of the characteristics of this strain, but it is not designated as a variant of concern, “indicating that there is currently no evidence of increased transmissibility or more serious diseases caused by this variant,” he said. the agency in a statement. , taking note of the recent U.S. warning against travel to the South Asian nation.
Virus cases are rising rapidly in India, where deaths from COVID-19 have exceeded 220,000 and confirmed cases have exceeded 20 million.
The World Health Organization stated in an April 26 coronavirus update that a preliminary study based on genetic sequencing shows that the variant has a higher growth rate than other variants circulating in India. ” suggesting an increase in potential transmissibility “. The agency said an additional study is needed to determine its potential for increased spread and more serious diseases.
Iowa cases were detected in two adults in Jefferson County, southeastern Iowa. Public health officials are investigating to determine where they were exposed to the strain of the virus.
The State Hygienic Lab found the new strain during routine analysis of genetic sequence data.
Strains first found in the UK and Brazil have been identified as circulating in Iowa and are considered worrisome variants because they spread easily and can cause more serious illnesses.
IDPH said that with the variants circulating, it is especially important for Iowans to get a COVID-19 vaccine. People should also continue to wear a mask in public places and practice social distancing when meeting people outside the home.
Interest in vaccination has waned in Iowa in recent weeks.
The Des Moines Register reported Saturday that Iowa rejected 71% of the supply of COVID-19 vaccine it could have received from federal officials for next week, marking the second week the state has not had enough. demand to accept full state allocation.
The state asked to withhold 75,280 doses out of the 105,300 doses it could have received.
Iowa has completely vaccinated 1.12 million people, or nearly 36 percent of the population, ranking 14th out of the total vaccinated population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state reported 389 new confirmed cases and no new deaths on Tuesday.