LINCOLN – The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Nebraska Public Health Lab (NPHL) have confirmed that the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 that originated in India has arrived in the state. The initial case has been identified as a Lancaster County resident who, through epidemiological investigations, has been linked to international travelers. The investigation is ongoing. The identified B.1.617 variant appears to be spreading in the United States in recent weeks, but it is not accounting for a substantial proportion variants identified nationally.
International travelers should seek testing within 3-5 days after return to Nebraska. Testing platforms like Test Nebraska and others will still produce a “positive” result for the identified B.1.617 variant (and other variants). B.1.617 appears more contagious than standard SARS-CoV-2 strains. It is expected that vaccinations will remain effective, although some studies show higher levels of antibodies are required to neutralize B.1.617 than the level of antibodies required to neutralize standard SARS-CoV-2 strains.
Nebraska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone said, “New variants bring more unknowns. As new variants are identified globally, in the U.S., and in Nebraska, it reinforces the responsibility we all have to get vaccinated. As more people are vaccinated the opportunity the virus has to change and mutate diminishes. Vaccinations are working. They are keeping hospitalizations low and helping reduce the spread. We must remain focused on vaccination so we can finish the race and get back to normal.”
A total of 875 of variants of concern have been identified in the state. To date, 764 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, 87 cases of the B1.427/B1.429 variant, 6 of B1.526, 12 cases of the P1, and 6 of the B1.351 variant have been identified in Nebraska. As researchers learn more about B.1.617 and other variants it remains as important as ever to vaccinate. Get vaccinated to reduce opportunity for new variants to spread in Nebraska.
Nebraskans can register for vaccination at Vaccinate.Ne.Gov.