The Erie County Department of Health has learned two COVID-19 samples from residents were identified as containing the COVID-19 B.1.351 “South Africa variant of concern.”
The New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center laboratory detected this variant in samples collected in March. Erie County contact tracers were able to confirm one of the samples was collected from an individual who reported recent travel to Florida.
Sequencing conducted by the Genomics and Bioinformatics Core in the University at Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences recently identified the B.1.427 and B.1.429 “California variant of concern,” the B.1.1.7 “United Kingdom variant of concern,” and the B.1.526 “New York variant of interest” in Erie County resident samples.
“We can expect that genetic sequencing will identify more samples linked to variants of concern and variants of interest,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “The variants of concern found in Erie County are known to have increased transmissibility, meaning the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus is more easily spread between people.”
“COVID-19 vaccination is a powerful, protective tool for any individual aged 16 and older,” she continued. “The more people who are vaccinated to protect against COVID-19, the lower the risk of COVID-19 variant strains spreading in our community. We know how to reduce the risk of infection: wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, stay home when sick. Adding vaccination as another layer of protection for our community brings us that much closer to putting this pandemic behind us.”