KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri is experiencing a rise in people contracting the Delta variant (first detected in India) of the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
It was announced by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday that the Delta variant has been reclassified as a “variant of concern” in the United States.
The Missouri DHSS said it has been closely monitoring these developments and has been on the national leading edge of aggressive wastewater testing for variants of concern.
The Delta variant joins the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427/B.1.429 (Epsilon) variants circulating in the United States which are already classified as variants of concern.
Deemed highly transmissible, the Delta virus has been already detected in over 70 countries of the world, and is projected to become dominant worldwide. It is also causing more serious illness and hospitalizations among those who have not been vaccinated.
The health department said monitoring the spread of emerging variants in the United States relies on widespread, rapid sequencing. While this national effort is still somewhat limited, it is clear that the variant has become prevalent in communities throughout Missouri.
In February, the Missouri DHSS began testing wastewater samples to look for the presence of these variants.
The unpredictability of emerging variants is cause for continuation of infection prevention precautions.
“Our greatest concern in Missouri is areas with lower vaccine uptake,” said Robert Knodell, acting director of Missouri DHSS. “With this variant being easier to spread and possibly causing more severe illnesses among unvaccinated people of all ages, vaccinations are the best way to stop this virus in its tracks.”
This recent rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant underscores the importance of continued testing for COVID-19 of all those with related symptoms, as well as those who have been exposed to the virus but may not have symptoms.
The health department said social distancing and appropriate masking remain important and effective public health countermeasures. Vaccination is the most effective and long-lasting tool for protection from this infection.
Missouri DHSS said it’s continuing to encourage anyone age 12 and up to get vaccinated against COVID-19.