Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Variant Strains of COVID-19 Identified in Long-term Care Facility Outbreaks

The Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting additional cases of two variant strains of COVID-19 in Mississippi.

Ten additional cases of the more infectious South African origin B.1.351 variant strain have now been identified, for a total of 12 cases. The 10 additional cases are associated with outbreaks in Bedford Care facilities — Monroe Hall in Forrest County and Landmark Care of Collins in Covington County. 

The South African variant cases associated with these outbreaks were breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated older individuals in long-term care facilities. The majority of these cases had minimal to no symptoms; however, two required hospitalization, and one person died. 

“Although one death is extremely unfortunate, the fact that most of these cases have had minimal to no symptoms in highly vulnerable individuals is extremely encouraging,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “The vaccines currently available provide excellent protection against severe disease. While theses illnesses are caused by variant strains, the outcomes of all these cases would likely be much more severe if they were not vaccinated.” 

The MSDH expects to continue to identify variant strains and vaccine breakthrough cases. However, through increased vaccination and reduction in transmission, especially in long-term care settings, the risk of vaccine breakthrough cases is also decreased. 

“It’s vitally important that all health care and long-term care facility staff get vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Byers. “We need to protect our most vulnerable populations.” 

As of May 21, 554 COVID-19 variant cases had been reported in Mississippi, most of which are the UK variant. 

The MSDH has also identified three cases of B.1.617.2 Indian origin variant in Claiborne, Smith and Hinds counties outside of long-term care settings. The investigation is ongoing, but at least two cases are directly associated with travelers from India and Nepal. 

So far there have been 254 breakthrough cases reported in Mississippi out of more than 844,000 fully vaccinated Mississippians, demonstrating the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

Variant numbers are updated weekly on Fridays.

Staff report