The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment has received confirmation from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) of the delta variant strain of the SARS CoV-2 in Antigua and Barbuda.
According to a release from the ministry, the delta variant of concern, first identified in India in October 2020, was found in one of a group of seven samples taken in Antigua and Barbuda between May 5 and July 2 2021.
The alpha variant of concern, first identified in Antigua and Barbuda late last month, was identified in the other six samples. The delta variant is identified by multiple spike protein mutations. It is more transmissible, may cause more severe disease, hospitalizations, increased intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and death.
There is also preliminary evidence of twice the rate of hospitalization for unvaccinated persons when compared to those who are vaccinated.
The World Health Organization has so far confirmed four variants of concern circulating globally. Antigua and Barbuda has been sending samples to CARPHA for genomic sequencing to detect variants since October 2020 as part of a CARPHA/UWI project.
The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment has also increased its surveillance for SARS CoV-2 variants at the laboratory at the Sir Lester Bird Mount St. John’s Medical Centre which now has the capacity to detectSARS CoV-2 variants.
As a result of this increased surveillance the alpha, beta and delta variants are of concern in Antigua and Barbuda.
After recording no active cases of COVID-19 for a few weeks Antigua is now seeing an increase in the number of cases.
“This reinforces the fact that we must continue to adhere to the public health measure to prevent and control the disease. These include physical and social distancing, using face masks and practicing hand hygiene and cough etiquette. The public is further reminded that vaccination is one of the most effective measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release stated.
Persons are therefore urged to get fully vaccinated utilizing the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines readily available at their vaccination centres in the Multipurpose and Cultural Centre and the Villa Polyclinic.