South African COVID-19 variant detected in Albany, Corvallis wastewater

Coronavirus

The Albany Millersburgh Water Reclamation Facility in Albany, Oregon, as seen on Google Street View, April 26 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A variant of COVID-19 commonly referred to as the South African variant has been detected in wastewater systems in Albany and Corvallis, researchers at Oregon State University announced Monday.

Officials with OSU’s TRACE program, which samples wasterwater in 40 communities around the state to track the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, found that mutations consistent with the B.1.351 variant were detected in consecutive wastewater samples taken in Albany on March 26 and March 31 and in Corvallis in off-campus housing just north of OSU on April 4.

The first case of the South African COVID-19 variant in Oregon was reported in March; since then, the Oregon Health Authority reports 10 people in the state have tested positive for the variant.

“Following on the heels of the individual cases, the wastewater data supports the fact that the South African strain is here in Oregon, and that it’s likely spreading,” Brett Tyler, a principal investigator with OSU’s TRACE project and director of OSU’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, said in a press release.

Last week, an OHSU study determined that current vaccines are not as effective against COVID-19 variants; however, researchers at OHSU and with OSU’s TRACE program, which is backed by OHA, continue to promote vaccination efforts.

“The vaccines may have reduced effectiveness against this strain, but they’re still a whole lot better than not being vaccinated,” Tyler said.

On Monday, 630 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases and one new death were reported by Oregon health officials.

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