COVID-19 Variant Information
What are variants and how are they created?
Once viruses enter the body, they start to reproduce, which causes them to change and become more diverse. The changes are then studied by scientists and if it causes a significant enough change to the structure of the virus and how it interacts with the body or the way it spreads, it is labeled as a variant.
Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants persist. Some variations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. Those variants must be monitored more carefully. Currently, the CDC has divided these variants into three categories: variant of concern, variant of interest, variant being monitored, and variant of high consequence.
Key Variants in Montana:
As of June 21st, Montana has had 4,591 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant. Omicron BA.2 was first confirmed in Montana on January 30, 2022, followed by Omicron BA.2.12.1, which was first confirmed in Montana on April 19, 2022, then by Omicron BA.4 which was first confirmed in Montana on May 4, 2022, and finally by Omicron BA.5 on May 31, 2022. In the past 4 weeks, there have been 148 sequences reported and analyzed- 53 (36%) are BA.2, 79 (53%) are BA.2.12.1, 8 (5%) are BA.4, 7 (5%) are BA.5, and 1 (<1%) is BA.1.
Information accurate to June 18, 2022.
For more information on COVID-19 variants, and specific variants in Montana, visit the DPHHS website.
Variants of Concern
According to the CDC, a variant of concern seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.
- Delta: It was first identified in India in December 2020, but wasn’t detected in the United States until March 2021. This variant has an increased ability to be passed between individuals. It may cause more than 2x as many infections as previous variants. Some data suggests the Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated individuals.
- Omicron: It was first identified in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021 and was detected shortly after on December 1, 2021 in the United States. This variant has an increased ability to be passed between individuals. Some data suggests the Omicron variant might cause less severe illness than previous strains, especially in vaccinated and boosted individuals.
More information can be found on the CDC website.
Variants being monitored
According to the CDC, variants being monitored are no longer being detected or are at low levels in the United States, but there is data indicating a potential or clear impact on medical countermeasures or that these variants have been associated with more severe disease or increased transmission.
- Iota: It was first identified in the United States (New York) in November of 2020.
- Eta: It was first identified in the United Kingdom and Nigeria in December of 2020.
- Alpha: It was first identified in the United Kingdom, but was first detected in the United States in December of 2020. This variant has ~50% increased ability to be passed between individuals. It potentially has an increased severity based on hospitalizations and case fatality rates.
- Gamma: It was first identified in Japan and Brazil.
- Mu: It was first identified in Colombia.
- Epsilon: It was first identified in the United States (California). It has ~20% increased ability to be passed between individuals.
For more information, visit the CDC website.