Kansas City area health officials explain how variants of COVID-19 are detected

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As positive COVID-19 cases continue to spike in many Kansas City area communities, people may be left wondering if they take a COVID-19 test, will they be able to detect all versions of the virus, including the new omicron variant.

While the test will give you a “yes” or “no” for COVID, a local health department said in order to find out the specific variant, that will require a deeper dive at a lab.

As health departments see a dramatic increase in positive COVID cases, Erin Deroia said with all the family gatherings going on, she wants to make sure her family is safe.

“We’ll make sure if we have gone to any events, to test,” she said.

Now the omicron variant is in the mix. Health officials say people want to know what version they have, if they test positive.

“I would definitely want to know which variant so you have an idea what symptoms you might have to deal with,” Deroia said.

“We get calls all the time with somebody saying, ‘I want my, I tested positive, I want this tested for Omicron,'” said Chip Cohlmia with the Jackson County Health Department.

Health officials said if you take a COVID test, it should be able to detect the Omicron variant. However, you won’t get the specific variant listed on your results. Those results can be found in a lab.

“There is the ability to do sequencing in certain centers. Of course, that is ongoing across the country. I think they are trying to sequence about 80,000 of the positive tests weekly,” said Dr. Mark Steele, University Health Chief Medical Officer.

At the Jackson County Health Department, with so many new positive cases, officials said not every sample is sent for genotyping.

“For public health and what we are sending out to our state laboratory, it’s all being done on a case-by-case basis just because of all the specimens that are coming into there,” Cohlmia said.

Health officials say the delta variant is the still the predominant version of COVID spreading now.

At this point, health officials say evidence suggests the omicron variant’s symptoms may be less severe. They said vaccines, boosters and continuing to mask up can all help to stop the spread of all versions of COVID.

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