EVANSVILLE – Deaconess has detected the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the UK variant, in our community.
Early identification of this new variant was made possible by the sophisticated PCR testing platform implemented by Deaconess. Concern that the UK variant had reached our area was first raised by a new result pattern detected in COVID-19 PCR tests performed in the Deaconess lab. According to Dr. April Abbott, who leads Deaconess’ microbiology labs, the presence of an S-gene drop-out was detected on six specimens in five patients over the past two weeks. This new result pattern raised suspicion of a significant gene mutation, prompting Dr. Abbott to send a specimen for genetic sequencing to Dr. Jennifer Dien Bard and Dr. Xiaowu Gai in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine atChildren’s Hospital Los Angeles. This sequencing confirmed a set of mutations consistent with the B1.1.7 or UK variant.
According to Dr. James Porter, Deaconess President, this is cause for concern, but is not surprising giventhe CDC’s prediction that the UK variant will be the predominant COVID-19 strain in the US by March. Dr. Porter said, “Confirmation of the UK variant in our community further heightens the importance andurgency of getting as many members of our community immunized as possible.”
There is increasing evidence that this variant is both more contagious and more deadly than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. The CDC’s most current data suggests it is 30-70% more contagious and as much as 30% more deadly.
“I urge everyone who is eligible to make an appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Dr. JoAnn Wood, Deaconess Chief Medical Officer. “We also must continue and even strengthen our commitment to wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds and practicing good hand hygiene,” she added. “We can’t allow the recent downward trend in COVID-19 cases cause us to become complacent. Other areas that have seen the emergence of this more contagious and deadly strain have experienced new surges in hospitalizations and deaths tied to outbreaks of the variant.”
Deaconess is working closely with the Vanderburgh County Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health to make necessary reports to the CDC and track the progression of this variant.
More information on COVID-19 is available at www.deaconess.com/coronavirus. Vaccine appointments can be scheduled by phone by calling 211 or 1-866-211-9966, or online at www.deaconess.com/vaccine; the site also includes more information and FAQs about the COVID-19 vaccine.