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Pan American Health Organization: 32 countries in the Americas have detected 1 of 3 COVID-19 variants

Posted: Friday, March 26, 2021. 9:40 am CST.

By Zoila Palma: Today, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) informed that 32 countries in the Americas have reported the presence of at least 1 of the 3 “variants of concern” of the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, according to a new Epidemiological Update.

PAHO noted that the variants may increase transmissibility of the virus, increase its virulence, or decrease the effectiveness of public health and social measures or diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics, although much remains to be learned about them.

Measures to reduce transmission include the same, frequent hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowded spaces.

Those countries include Argentina, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bonaire, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Saint Lucia, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

 PAHO shared that since the identification of SARS-CoV-2, more than 845,000 complete genomic sequences have been shared globally through publicly accessible databases.

“The capacity to monitor the data in near real time has a direct impact on the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing to identify changes in epidemiological patterns, in virulence, or in the decrease in therapeutic efficacy, among other changes,” the PAHO update noted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has since classified 3 variants as “variants of concern” those include the ones first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

They are known as B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and B.1.1.28.1.

PAHO assured that it continues to work closely with laboratories in the countries of the Americas to help identify samples which should be prioritized for genomic sequencing.

 Twenty-one countries are now participating in the COVID-19 Genomic Surveillance Network, with reference sequencing laboratories in Brazil and Chile.

PAHO says that it is working together with the countries of the region to expand and strengthen the regional network, as this mechanism will be critical to tracking the spread or appearance of new variants of concern.

 

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