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Missouri DHSS tracking COVID-19 variant data from wastewater samples

Published: Feb. 27, 2021 at 2:02 PM CST
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri health leaders released new results Friday after tracking COVID-19 variants in our wastewater.

Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Natural Resources have been testing for variants over the last couple of months.

While DHSS says there is only reported case of the COVID-19 UK variant (B.1.1.7), researchers are able to detect three cases of a California variant in wastewater.

State health director Dr. Randall Williams says the focus is now on variants.

“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.”

DHSS, the University of Missouri and Missouri Department of Natural Resources have been working together to sample sewage for COVID-19. Recently they’ve gene sequenced samples to look for variants, including one first detected in California.

Williams compares the sequencing to a train.

”You have a train with a 100 box cars, that’s a strain of COVID-19. if you substitute two box cars that are amino acids that will make the variant more infectious.”

From sewage collected here in the Ozarks:

  • Springfield has 4.5% of sewage with the California variant
  • Cassville 2.7%
  • Nixa 1.1%
  • Monett 1.2%

“Keep in mind that the variant is probably already in our population and has been there for sometime,” sais Kendra Findley with the Greene County Health Department.

Findley says the California variant isn’t required to be reported to the CDC. No matter how much is in the air or other places, the health agencies want you to be on guard.

”Lets keep down the road we are already on. Remind people to continue to mask. don’t take your foot off the gas just yet. When it’s you’re turn to get the vaccine get it,” says Findley.

DHSS says no Brazilian or South African variants have been found in these waste analyses. So far, there are no known clinical cases of such an infection in Missouri.

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