Variant strains of COVID-19 are increasing across the province with numerous divergent cases appearing in the Northern Health region since first detected on March 1.
Variants of the virus across the province have nearly doubled since April 2, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,766 Minister of Health Adrian Dix said, on April 7.
Of the total variant cases 266 are currently active, and 3,500 have recovered, Dix said.
Fifteen cases of COVID-19 variants have been found in the Northern Health region overtime, Dr. Rakel Kling medical health officer for Northern Health told The Northern View, on April 6.
“There are three different types of variants, of which the U.K. variant B.1.1.7 is the most common one in B.C. right now and the most common one we’re seeing in Northern Health as well,” she said.
Public health experts are tracking the variant strains because they are proving to be more severe and spread rapidly. Newer varieties are resulting in serious illness for younger people with cases quickly increasing in the 20 to 29-year-old age range.
A higher percentage of young people are needing to go into critical care, Dix said.
“We’re not seeing an increase in hospitalizations amongst young people. What we are seeing amongst those hospitalized is an increase in the number of young people in critical care.”
While the B.1.1.7 is the most widespread variant, there is a ‘significant’ amount of the P.1 strain in the province Dix said, and he expects the transmissive strain to eventually replace the less transmissive strains.
“What we know is the most transmissive varieties of COVID-19 are ultimately going to take over. We’ve seen that in other jurisdictions and we expect to see that here [in B.C],” the minister of health said.
As of April 5 out of 318 people in hospitals across the province, 96 were in intensive care and 60 people were infected with one of the variants.
However, which variants it is, it doesn’t matter as much, Kling said.
“What matters is the steps that we need to take in terms of the variant. We know that the variants are more transmissible and can lead to more severe cases of COVID. So that’s more of the main concern with the variants than which ones they actually are,” Kling said.
Reasons, why the variants are more transmissible and lead to more severe outcomes, are still being researched Kling said, as well as the efficacy and effects of the vaccines on newer strains.
“We do believe that the vaccine does have some effect against the U.K. variant,” she said. “… However, a vaccine is never 100 per cent protection. The vaccine, first of all, isn’t 100 per cent protection against regular COVID disease. We’re still a little bit unsure about the extent of protection, especially against some of the new and emerging variants.”
“We do know that once you’ve been vaccinated, you still can get COVID and you still can transmit it.”
Kling said although there is a lot of perceived anxiety about the new strains, it doesn’t change anything in terms of what is already known and what everyone should be doing.
“It’s still incredibly important that people who have been vaccinated whether you’ve had one vaccine or two vaccines — it’s still incredibly important that everyone follows all COVID protocols, guidance, and everything that Dr. Henry is continuing to tell us,” Kling said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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