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New virus variant in Michigan, racing against vaccination rate

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 5:16 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A new variant is sweeping across the nation and health officials are warning its more infectious and dangerous than the B1.1.7 virus. The “delta variant” makes up 90% of cases in the UK.

And now the virus is spreading quickly in the United States.

The CDC says the variant makes up 10% of cases in the US. Health officials are worried as states, including Michigan, plan to fully reopen by the end of the month.

There are 22 cases of the delta variant in Michigan, with 11 of those cases reported in residents. Health officials warn if vaccination rates don’t increase, we will have another surge in COVID-19 cases. Jennifer Morse is the Medical Director for the mid-Michigan Health Department.

“If this variant does get a foothold, it will spread very quickly like the B1.1.7. did,” she said.

The delta variant originated in India and this week the CDC recategorized the virus as a “variant of concern.” That’s because its more transmissible and hospitalization rates are up.

“About 10% of cases in the US are thought to be the Delta Variant,” Morse said. “But right now just a fraction of the percent, like 0.2%, are about to be caused by that variant in Michigan.”

Experts say vaccination is the only defense against the spread of the variant. Studies show children and unvaccinated people are more likely to transmit it.

Morse said, “The last surge we last had, the increase in cases, new cases we were seeing each day, were predominantly in people under 19.”

“It just seems to cause more severe symptoms, severe illness,” Morse said. “People are more likely to be hospitalized in the ICU. As for more deaths I have not seen those statistics this is still being studied.”

Experts say the vaccine seems to be effective against the variant, but the state vaccination rates need to be higher in order to prevent a surge. Sarah Surna is Barry-Eaton Health Department’s Community Health Promotion Specialist.

“We need to focus on getting more vaccinated,” Surna said. “Because the delta variant is thought to be fairly contagious, it’s important that we get as many people vaccinated as possible because it’s likely to spread.”

11 of the in-state cases reported are in Branch, Lapeer, Livingston, Oakland and Wayne counties.

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