Kalamazoo County ramping up variant detection efforts

County health officials are increasing their efforts to identify new strains of COVID after one was found in the county last week.

Kalamazoo County health officials are ramping up their efforts to detect and track variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. That’s after a woman was discovered to have contracted a more contagious strain of the virus last week in the county.

Officials say the woman is recovering and out of the hospital. But news that the woman hadn’t traveled outside the county recently is raising alarms as it suggests she contracted the virus somewhere in the community.

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“[The variant] spreads more easily. There’s not an indication at this point and time that it causes more severe disease, or it makes vaccines or medications less effective,” said county Medical Director Dr. William Nettleton in an interview with WOOD TV 8.

Nettleton said he and other health officials are encouraging local COVID-19 testing labs to send samples to the state to be investigated for variants.

The B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus first emerged in the U.K. late last year and has since spread to the U.S.

In the past three weeks, at least 30 cases of the variant have been discovered in Michigan, including one person in Kent County on Sunday.

Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun highlighted three variants of concern during a press conference on Friday.

“We have identified the B.1.1.7 variant in the state, but we expect there to be more and potentially other variants — the Brazil variant, the South African variant in the state,” she said.

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