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Missouri health officials continue to monitor for COVID-19 variant; only one reported case so far

FILE - This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and...
FILE - This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab(NIAID-RML via AP)
Published: Feb. 21, 2021 at 9:43 PM CST
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Edited News Release) - As COVID-19 case rates and positivity rates in Missouri steadily decline, state health officials note that the unpredictability of emerging variants is a good reason to continue infection prevention precautions.

“While Missouri has only one confirmed case of a patient with the UK variant, we understand this variant is more widespread in the United States and Missouri than detected by clinical and sentinel testing,” said Williams. “We want to reiterate just the importance of washing your hands and using masks if you can’t social distance as more variants are detected. We hope all Missourians will consider being vaccinated as vaccines become more available.”

The first Missouri case of the B.1.1.7 UK variant of COVID-19 was confirmed on Feb. 6 in northeast Missouri. While this remains the only confirmed human case of its kind in the state, epidemiologists say it is clear that this variant has been found in samples in various locations throughout the state based on this continued wastewater surveillance.

To further enhance the public health surveillance for variant SARS-CoV-2 viruses, Missouri healthcare providers can submit specimens from eligible individuals to the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory (MPSHL), if approved as appropriate for variant surveillance. 

As part of a national variant monitoring program, the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory had been sending samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every two weeks. Additionally, samples that had been indicating potential virus variants have been sent from the State to the regional public health reference laboratory in Minnesota for sequencing.

DHSS will consider requests for testing from providers when certain requirements and criteria are met. Testing capacity is for public health surveillance and is therefore limited. The new capabilities will be supported through a partnership with the University of Missouri to provide bioinformatic analysis.

“We are fortunate that we are now able to implement these sequencing capabilities right here in our laboratory,” said Bill Whitmar, director of the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory. “In collaboration with our partners, this timely surveillance will help allow us earlier detection of emerging variants.”

For more information on the state’s response to the potential of COVID-19 variants, CLICK HERE.

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