As health officials continue to track COVID-19 cases in B.C., they’re also closely monitoring new cases of concerning variants of the disease.
To date, 40 cases of two variants have now been recorded in the province, Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed during her COVID-19 briefing Monday. The first of these variants was recorded on Vancouver Island on Dec. 27.
Of those, 25 cases are the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the U.K. The other 15 are the B.1.351 variant, which was first identified in South Africa. That’s six more of each variant since the province’s last report on Friday.
Of the B.1.1.7 variant, 15 were recorded in the Fraser Health region. Five were in Vancouver Coastal Health, four on Vancouver Island and one in the Interior. Henry explained that nearly all of those cases were linked to travel or contact with someone who had recently travelled. Just one is still under investigation.
More concerning, she said, is that four of the B.1.351 cases have unclear and unlinked origins. Of that variant reported in B.C., 13 cases were in VCH region while the other two were in the Fraser Health region.
“Of the 40 confirmed cases though I will say we only have three that are currently active, and public health has done extensive follow up and tracing back of all of our cases,” Henry said.
“The ones we know about, we are confident for the majority of them that there has been no onward transmission.”
Henry said officials have noticed the variants have typically been confirmed “in a younger population.”
“So, we aren’t seeing severe illness in the number that we’ve identified so far. Nobody has been hospitalized at of these cases,” she said.
“There has been some transmission within close contacts and particularly within households.”
Henry said the concern is if these variants become dominant in the community.
“We have seen in some places around the world that it does change the game in some ways if it starts to take off,” she said.
“It’s been over a year that we’ve been doing this, and it really takes us back to some of the ways we were trying to manage the pandemic in January and February of last year where we were doing, case management and contact tracing and controlling every single case.”