SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Local health experts are seeing a "significant shift" in COVID-19 Variants of Concern in Santa Barbara County.
The Local Variant Research Team, comprised of Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons and UCSB Professor Carolina Arias, shared their latest findings Thursday afternoon.
The updated Community Dashboard shows out of 291 samples, 173 or 59.5% are "Variants of Concern."
Their findings show that over the past few weeks, the UK Variant has established itself in our area and has overtaken all other variants. That includes the West Coast Variant.
Fitzgibbons shared with NewsChannel 3-12 that the UK Variant, B.1.1.7, was present in the majority of samples from confirmed COVID-19 cases taken in April. And, that a new "Variant of Interest" popped up in late March in samples and, is growing. That is the B.1.526, which emerged back in February in New York City. Health officials have said that variant has the potential to resist the immune system.
Fitzgibbons said her team also discovered an important mutation that popped up in five samples in Santa Barbara county beginning late last month. It is known as E484K.
"This trend is being seen throughout the country and indeed throughout the world. Variants which have the E484K mutation include the P.1 variant from Brazil, the B.1.351 from South Africa and several others. Laboratory studies show that SARS-CoV2 variants that contain the E484K mutation in the spike protein have decreased susceptibility to some of the important treatments which have been developed, specifically some of the monoclonal antibody treatments. Furthermore, variants with this mutation may increase the risk of re-infection in people who were previously infected with a different variant in the past," Fitzgibbons explained in a detailed email.
Fitzgibbons ended her email with words of encouragement.
"Ultimately, as our community cases of COVID-19 remain low but steady, we know that this virus will be with us for the weeks and months ahead. We're grateful to know which variants have been circulating, which variants are here now, and to understand what may be ahead. Perhaps the most important news this week is that we continue to see that the variants present in our community are good matches for the vaccines that are now available to everyone in Santa Barbara County over the age of 16. Now is the time for everyone to help protect themselves, their loved ones and our whole community by getting vaccinated, as we all continue to enjoy a safe reopening."
Click here to see the latest Variant Testing Results.