Looking for ommicron in SD: 1.7% of COVID-19 cases are sequenced for variants – Community News
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Looking for ommicron in SD: 1.7% of COVID-19 cases are sequenced for variants

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — To find COVID-19 variants, you have to search for them.

Variants have not been searched for much in South Dakota during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a global science initiative providing access to genomic data.

The search for variants is led by the South Dakota Department of Health, which is the first to report whether cases of variants are detected in the state. The DOH says variant cases of COVID-19 are being identified through genomic sequencing performed by the state’s Public Health Laboratory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other partners.

Once a variant is identified, state health officials say it points to broader or greater transmission within a community. The DOH says the process, called sentry monitoring, uses a very small portion of COVID-19-positive tests to look for variants.

According to data from GISAID, South Dakota has the fewest COVID-19-positive genomes to be sequenced, of all 50 states.

Since the start of the pandemic, GISAID data shows that South Dakota has shared 2,870 genomes, of the more than 168,000 reported cases, to look for COVID-19 variants. GISAID reports that 1.7% of COVID-19 cases in South Dakota are in the order to look for variants. Oklahoma ranked lowest with less than 1% of total COVID-19 cases sequenced and Vermont the highest with 18.8% of total cases sequenced.

Of the 2,870 genomes taken in South Dakota, the DOH reports that 1,277 variant cases of COVID-19 have been found — 1,096 from the delta variant, 176 from the alpha variant, three from the gamma variant and two from the beta variant. variant.

Avera Health helps the DOH with genomic sequencing and Dr. David Erickson said Avera is now setting up the sequence for the omicron variant.

“What’s currently circulating is the delta variant,” Erickson said. “Many are concerned that this could move to the ommicron variant very quickly. We don’t know yet, but that is certainly the concern. The only way you’ll find out is if you put those viruses in order and look for them.”

Erickson said there are many people, including himself, who believe that the omicron variant is already in many states in the United States and in many countries around the world.

“You’re just not able to screen everyone with generic sequencing,” Erickson said. “Most experts believe that if it’s not there, it will be soon.”

Erickson also noted that CDC director Rochelle Walensky said last week that the CDC sequences 80,000 samples a week across the country, looking for variants. That’s more than 8,000 samples sequenced per week earlier this year, Walensky said.

The presence of COVID-19 variants also demonstrates the importance of getting a COVID-19 test for symptoms, Erickson said. Regardless of vaccination status, Erickson said even people with mild symptoms should get a test, and if you feel sick, you should stay home.

During Tuesday’s budget speech, Governor Kristi Noem (RS.D.) suggested lawmakers approve $69 million to build a new state public health lab. You can view Noem’s proposal below.

A study by an engineering firm said the public health lab’s needs can no longer be met by the existing 25-year-old building.

Funding for the new public health lab, which would also include the DOH’s administrative department and training building, would be funded from the U.S. bailout plan, which needs federal approval.

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