Monongalia County health leaders concerned about presence of variants

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia County Health Department has identified more than 200 coronavirus variant cases in the county, in which a majority are the California and United Kingdom strains.

Officials at the local, statewide and national levels have shared concerns about the variants because the strains can be more infectious and deadly.

“These mutations occur on the outside of the virus and change the way they adhere to human cells, but do not change how the virus behaves,” said Dr. Lee Smith, the health department’s executive and county health officer. “This means the illness looks the same but may be more severe.”

The health department notes 164 cases are the California variant and 32 cases are the United Kingdom variant. The California variant reportedly has two know mutations, and it is not completely clear how it affects people. Younger people are more susceptible to getting variant strains.

Smith still urges people to get vaccinated for the coronavirus, saying it helps decrease the spread of cases and the virus’ severity.

“People still need to wear masks, even if they have been vaccinated,” she added. “They should be cautious in other ways, by socially distancing when not around individuals with whom they live, washing their hands often and using common sense when they go out in public and engage in activities.”

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, more than 460,000 West Virginians are fully vaccinated.

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