“We have seen in other jurisdictions that that Delta variant can become the dominant variant. So we are aggressively managing all our of case and contacts as if they are (variants of concern),” chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.
Manitoba’s first presumed positive case of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and was previously known as B.1.617, was announced in late April and the first four cases were confirmed May 7.
In the past four days, Delta case numbers have quadrupled.
“Most of these we found were related to travel or household (transmission), although we have seen some clusters,” Roussin said.
While the Alpha variant first identified in the U.K. is still the dominant strain in Manitoba, some studies show the Delta strain is up to 50 per cent more transmissible. It doesn’t appear to be leading to more severe outcomes.
Manitoba is not able to screen for this variant as tests are still in development at provincial and federal labs.
“We do find it through genome sequencing,” Roussin said.
“We haven’t seen an increase in hospitalizations or severe outcomes in the relatively small group at this point. But we’ll, of course, be following that closely.”
Roussin said getting people fully vaccinated is the best protection against the variants.
“We need to ensure we close the loop and get our second shot, because what we found is that first dose may not be as effective against this Delta variant, but two doses still brings great protection,” he said.
Vaccine Implementation Task Force medical lead Dr. Joss Reimer echoed Roussin’s sentiments.
“Both first dose and second dose are critical,” Reimer said. “And every single dose that comes in Manitoba, we need to administer as quickly as we can.”
Some studies showed vaccines are less effective against the Delta variant, especially if people only have one dose. One recent study from the United Kingdom indicated two doses were 60 per cent more effective against the variant compared with just one dose.
Reimer said two German studies also found similar results.
“It did look like folks who had had two doses, they were quite effective at neutralizing the virus in the lab with the antibodies that they had,” she said.
“With two doses, most of the data so far shows us that there might be a slightly reduced effectiveness, but that there is still a very strong protection against that variant from the vaccines.”
Reimer said this rang true regardless of which vaccines people received.
“People who had received the mixed schedule or two doses of mRNA were effective at neutralizing a variety of different variants of the virus,” she said.
“So, so far, it does seem like the existing mRNA vaccines are strongly protective against all of the existing variants, possibly a little bit less against the Delta variant.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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