UC Davis detects South African virus variant in Yolo County


DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) — The UC Davis Genome Center has identified the first known case of the B.1.351 variant in Yolo County.

The more contagious variant was tested and confirmed in early February, according to UC Davis, and has a 50% higher transmission rate.

“I think there’s good evidence now that it’s much more transmissible and there is also evidence that the vaccine, some of the vaccines are less efficacious,” said professor Richard Michelmore, the director of the UC Davis Genome Center.

Health experts said that while vaccines may not keep people from contracting the variants, there is strong evidence that they can keep people from dying.

Officials said the Davis resident who contracted the variant was not vaccinated and contact tracing is in progress.

Yolo County public health officer Aimee Sisson said in a statement, residents need to continue taking protective measures such as social distancing and wearing masks:

The detection of the B.1.351 variant is concerning given its high transmissibility and studies in the lab that show that vaccines may not work as well against this variant.

Even if real-world studies eventually show that vaccines are effective against the B.1.351 variant, the majority of Yolo County residents are not yet fully vaccinated. Until most of the population has immunity, we need everyone to continue taking protective measures against coronavirus.

Aimee Sisson, Yolo County public health officer

“If we throw away our masks, throw away our cares, it is going to skyrocket,” Michelmore warned. “Right now, California is trending in the right direction but in a couple of weeks we could go hard in the wrong direction if people are complacent.”

The variant, which originated in South Africa in 2020, has been detected in 33 states, UC Davis said.

California has reported 10 cases of the variant.

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