Michigan state health officials testing for Omicron variant

MDHHS hasn’t detected newest COVID variant
Michigan state health officials testing for Omicron variant
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 6:15 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it’s only a matter of time before the new COVID-19 variant is in Michigan.

Nov. 29, 2021: Coronavirus Report: Michigan reports 25,329 new cases, 137 deaths over past five days

Michigan’s state lab was one of the first in the country to test for COVID-19, and now it’s already running tests to see if new variants are spreading in the state.

“What scientists are doing is they are looking at all of the genes that make up the virus, Sars-COVID-2 virus and looking for changes,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive.

The state ran more than 31,000 samples it already had looking for Omicron and no cases were identified.

Related: Mid-Michigan health officials urge residents to remain vigilant as COVID cases rise

But Dr. Bagdasarian said not every positive test gets sequenced, just the ones that health officials might be concerned about.

“When testing goes up, sequencing expands at the same time. Now we will be paying particular attention to individuals with travel history,” said Dr. Bagdasarian.

MSU microbiology professor Dr. Victor DiRita said this genetic mapping has become more common over the last decade.

“Being able to generate DNA sequence has really opened up our ability to study pathogens in ways we couldn’t do before,” said Dr. DiRita.

He expects new variants won’t start here in the United States.

“What we’re going to continue seeing is the variants of concern are going to probably not be coming from the United States, where we have 80%of the population vaccinated,” said Dr. DiRita.

Dr. Bagdasarian said it’s important for people to continue to get tested.

“Our percent positivity pretty high. Our percent positivity is hovering around 18 percent. that tells us there aren’t enough getting tested. We’re not casting a wide enough net and we may be missing cases in the community,” said Dr. Bagdasarian.

The Delta Variant is still the dominant strain in Michigan.

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