Variants of coronavirus emerging in Wisconsin

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Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been identified in Wisconsin.

Variants of the coronavirus have been emerging in recent months, raising public health concerns of the virus and stimulating the race to vaccinate Wisconsin.

Variants are new strains of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Variants occur through mutations, which are changes in the genetic code of a virus,” Wisconsin Department of Health Services wrote. “Viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, naturally change or mutate over time and the new variants are expected to occur.”

On March 25, the first case of the Brazilian COVID-19 variant, Variant P.1, was confirmed in Ozaukee County. It was the first case of its kind to be discovered in Wisconsin.

“New variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continue to be identified in our state,” according to the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department. “Studies show that new variants of SARS-CoV-2 may spread more easily and rapidly than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.”

The CDC classifies known variants into three categories: variants of high consequence, variants of concern and variants of interest.

No variants of high consequence have been identified in the United States.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “A variant’s classification is based on its attributes, including how easily it spreads, how sick it makes people and whether COVID-19 treatments and vaccines can prevent it.”

Variants of concern is a category of mutations that may prove to be more concerning than other variants. A variant classified under it is a “variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease …, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures,” The CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Less concerning variants and lineages of SARS-CoV02 are ones that do not meet the CDC’s criteria for being classified as variants of concern, and they are expected to arise during a pandemic.

Often, to identify a variant of SARS-CoV-2 symptoms and genetic coding are studied.

In Wisconsin, the actual number of infections from variants could be considerably higher than what is known. This is because not all of the new infections are sequenced in order to determine the genetic makeup and find mutations.

According to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s top communicable disease official, collectively, the variants may make up more than half of recent cases.

Vaccinations are highly recommended to reduce the chances of developing an infection caused by COVID-19 or a variant.

“We can’t think that we’re done with this,” Dr. Westergaard said. “We have to be vigilant, we have to wear masks, we have to gather outdoors, we have to encourage vaccination for everyone that is eligible.”

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