Shelby Co. health leaders encourage COVID-19 testing as UK strain becomes leading variant

UK strain of COVID-19 is now dominant in Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department continues to track variants of COVID-19 that are appearing in the county.

For those who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 in Shelby County, chances are it is the UK strain of the virus.

”The B117 is now the dominant strain. It’s the most commonly circulating strain in the community,” said Shelby County Health Department Deputy Director David Sweat.

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Sweat also says the UK strain is highly transmissible and it is mainly impacting people below the age of 45.

The health department is able to detect the UK strain of the virus by sending COVID-19 tests to labs to undergo sequencing tests. Some local labs are doing sequencing tests, including UT Health Science Center and St. Jude.

”From their sequencing work we’re able to look at the different strains and see what viruses are predominant, and also look for the presence or emergence of new variants of concern,” said Sweat.

Through sequencing, the health department has also found variants of the virus first detected in Brazil, South Africa and Japan.

”So, we’ve been able to isolate some of them and prevent them from spreading,” said Sweat.

Since Easter, the health department has seen an increase in people getting tested. In the last few days, total positive cases have been between 150 and 200. Sweat says they may be detecting more of the cases, however, the county’s positivity rate is dropping.

”We’re not as alarmed as we might become if we not only see an increase in cases but we see an increase in positivity rate at the same time. That might be more of a concern,” Sweat explained.

Sweat added that testing is still important to stop the spread of the virus even with more people being vaccinated.

There are still thousands of testing appointments available at community-supported test sites throughout the county.

You can find COVID-19 testing sites HERE.

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