South African coronavirus variant found in Nebraska

Nebraska News

LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) – Nebraska health officials confirmed that the South Africa variant of COVID-19 has arrived in the state.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Nebraska Public Health Lab (NPHL) said the variant case, known as B.1.351, was identified as a Lancaster County resident. An investigation is underway and ongoing.

Officials say the variant has been spreading throughout the United States, but has been identified less frequently than other variants, with the CDC estimating less than 1% of sequenced specimens are B.1.351 throughout the United States.

Testing for the coronavirus will still find positive results for the South Africa variant, which appears to be more contagious than other coronavirus strains. Even so, officials believe vaccinations will remain effective, but they cause that some studies show higher levels of antibodies are required to neutralize B.1.351 than the level of antibodies required to neutralize standard SARS-CoV-2 strains.

Health officials identified 291 variants of the SARS-CoV-2 strains in Nebraska, with 234 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, 54 cases of the B1.427/B1.429 variant, 1 of B1.526, and 2 cases of the P1 variant.

Nebraska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone said the state is doing a good job in vaccinating residents.

“I am pleased to report that 70% of residents 65 and older are fully vaccinated and that percentage is continuing to increase. This pandemic can only be slowed through vaccination and employing mitigation efforts such as masking and distancing. Vaccination is our greatest hope for preventing another major surge of COVID-19 cases and getting our great state back to normal,” Anthone said.

Anthone asks for people to continue to get tested, especially if they have any symptoms. He also encourages people to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”

More than 35% of Nebraskans are fully vaccinated, as the State is now in Phase 2B which allows anyone 16 and older can get vaccinated, there are several options available.

Register at Vaccinate.Ne.Gov, or with your local health district, or check with area pharmacies that may be scheduling appointments. Those registered will be alerted when a vaccine is available in their priority group and health district. There is a Spanish translation site for the vaccine portal on the State’s website; users can access this by selecting Español from the language drop-down menu at the top-right side of the page. Registrants will need to provide name and contact information, date of birth and answer health questions used to help determine priority group eligibility. Any information entered is strictly confidential and used solely for this purpose. Friends, family and caregivers are encouraged to assist others with vaccine sign-up if needed. The DHHS Information line can assist those with limited technology, language or Internet access, and is available by calling 531-249-1873 or 833-998-2275.

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