Creighton, CHI Health to begin COVID-19 variant testing for DHHS
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday a contract with Creighton University and CHI Health to provide COVID-19 variant testing for the state.
The new contract means all positive COVID-19 PCR tests conducted by CHI’s lab will be tested to determine whether they are cases of a COVID variant. As of Monday, the state had confirmed 140 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant (the U.K. variant), 42 cases of the B1.427/B1.429 variant (the California variant), and two cases of the P.1 variant (the Brazil variant) in Nebraska.
“The regular B117 is now predominating. It’s moving up,” said Dr. Richard Goering, Creighton professor and chair of medical microbiology and immunology.
Local experts say they expect the UK variant or B.1.1.7 to become the leading strain in Nebraska in a matter of weeks. They say this partnership is critical in helping to slow the spread.
After the Creighton lab finds a variant, the information from the tests will then go to public health departments so they can start contact tracing.
“Every variant case is looked at very closely in terms of source. Was it someone who traveled? And as I said, it gets significant priority in terms of contact tracing,” said Dr. Maureen Tierney, Creighton assistant dean of public health.
Infectious disease specialists say this testing is important because the variants are causing the current increase in cases and hospitalizations.
“From personal experience, as I am taking care of patients with covid-19 infections, I am seeing a younger population. So, I think that’s one of the big concerns,” said Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, CHI Health chief of infectious disease.
The Creighton lab can test up to 100 positive COVID-19 tests a week.
This is now the third lab to start testing for variants in Nebraska.
Participating in the presentation are:
- Dr. Maureen Tierney, Creighton assistant dean of Public Health
- Dr. Gary J. Anthone, chief medical officer and director of the Division of Public Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
- Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, CHI Health chief of Infectious Disease
- Dr. Michael Belshan, Creighton professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
- Dr. Holly Stessman, Creighton assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology
- Dr. Richard Goering, Creighton professor and chair of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
- Dr. Stephen Cavalieri, CHI Health technical director of Microbiology
Watch Wednesday’s news conference
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