FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The dangerous UK variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Allen County by the county’s health commissioner.
Dr. Matthew Sutter told WANE 15 on Thursday that cases of the prominent COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. have been confirmed in the county.
COVID variants occur when the virus genome mutates and becomes subsequently more dangerous to public health. Variant B.1.1.7, also known as the UK variant, was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020.
According to the CDC, there have been nearly 21,000 reported cases of this variant in the US so far.
Variant B.1.1.7 can cause more serious complications than the novel coronavirus. Young people affected have a higher chance of hospitalization and even death. Because this variant is extremely contagious, it’s partly contributed to the sharp spike in COVID cases in Michigan, which has seen over 2,000 cases of this variant.
Now, it’s running through Indiana, with about 263 cases.
It’s unclear how many cases have been confirmed in Allen County, but Sutter said he’s closely watching the spread of variant in Michigan to learn of its effects in Allen County.
“What we’ve been seeing in Michigan is not only high rates of disease, mainly among younger people, but high rates of hospitalization, and I think we’ll soon see high rates of death as a result of that, we could see that same thing in Indiana,” said Sutter. “So far, thankfully, we haven’t. We’ve got to watch this very closely. We have high levels of variance in the air and in the state. And in Michigan, that seems to be causing lots of problems.”
Dr. Sutter stressed that COVID-19 vaccines are a vital tool in protecting against Variant B.1.1.7. Because of its high infection rate, he encouraged young people, who can be asymptotic carriers, to get vaccinated.
“We’ve seen outstanding levels of vaccination in the over 65 population,” said Sutter. “However, younger people are not getting vaccinated right now despite the fact that if that continues, that will allow variants to spread and potentially mutate further.”