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PHMDC notices more COVID-19 variants in test samples

UW-Madison professor says rising case numbers are not a reason to panic.
UW-Madison professor says rising case numbers are not a reason to panic.(WMTV)
Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 3:55 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Dane County health officials say Friday that COVID-19 variant cases are showing up more in samples that are being tested by partners.

Public Health Madison & Dane County tweeted that variant cases do not appear to be “dominating the landscape,” but they are still important to track and take seriously.

NBC15 reached out to the Wisconsin State Laboratory to find out how the state tests for variants.

Director of the laboratory’s Hygiene Communicable Disease Division, Dr. Allen Bateman, explained there are four labs in Wisconsin that currently perform genomic sequencing on COVID-19 specimen. These four labs are the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, the UW-Madison AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory, Gundersen Health Systems in La Crosse and the City of Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory.

Between all four labs, Dr. Bateman said that their estimated testing capacity is up to 600 specimen per week.

In addition to analyzing the general COVID-19 strain, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene also tests COVID-19 specimen that have “a higher potential to be variants.”

Clinicians were sent a brief on Jan. 4 by the Department of Health Services, outlining the specific criteria for what would constitute a test for a variant.

Health care workers are supposed to notify DHS for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 using a PCR test, as well as meet any of these criteria:

  • Have traveled to another country within the previous 30 days
  • Have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling to another country in the previous 30 days.
  • Prolonged clinical illnesses, including those who are suspected of having protracted SARS-CoV-2 viral replication, are immunocompromised, or who have a recurrence of COVID-19 disease after an initial period of recovery.
  • Suspected repeat infection occurring in patients who received monoclonal antibody therapy, convalescent plasma therapy, or antiviral drugs including remdesivir.
  • Any SARS-CoV-2 infection in an individual who has received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently in the state, there are 56 COVID-19 variant cases- 55 are the UK variant and one is the South African variant.

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