Story at a glance
- The WHO reclassified the coronavirus variant first identified in India as a “variant of concern” globally.
- The variant has been linked to the ongoing surge in cases in India.
- Cases of this variant have been reported in Tennessee, Nebraska, Nevada and Iowa.
On May 10, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the coronavirus variant that was first identified in India as a “variant of concern” on a global level. This variant, named B.1.617, is thought to be more easily spread than the original versions of the novel coronavirus, and it has been linked to the current surge of cases in India.
On May 4, the Biden administration travel ban went into effect for travelers who had been in India within the previous two weeks. Recently, the variant has been found in the U.S., although we may not be able to tell for some time if the ban is effective at preventing the variant from entering and spreading.
In April, Tennessee had cases from people who had recently traveled to India, according to The Associated Press (AP).
“Probably, what we're seeing in our community is also happening in other parts of the United States, in counties of a similar size,” said David Sweat, chief of epidemiology for the Shelby County Health Department, to US News.
In Iowa, two cases were confirmed in early May, according to the AP. In Nebraska, a case caused by the B.1.617 variant was confirmed last week. The person has links to international travelers, according to the AP.
In Nevada last week, a woman who had not traveled and was not vaccinated tested positive for the B.1.617 variant, according to the AP. Eight other cases were also reported in Nevada.
Experts are keeping a close eye on cases to track the variants. It’s been on the rise in the U.K. as well, making up nearly 8 percent of cases, according to one study.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, in a press conference according to CNBC, said, “Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage in all of the sub lineages, so we need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done.”
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