Two cases of the COVID-19 variant first seen in India have been detected in the Dallas area for the first time, researchers with UT Southwestern Medical Center announced Thursday.
UT Southwestern says the virus appears to be more contagious than older coronavirus variants, though research shows current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against it.
The two Dallas-area cases have no recent travel history, a Dallas County spokesperson told The Dallas Morning News. No further information about the patients was available.
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"The identification of the B.1.617.2 variant again reinforces the importance of vaccination - which helps slow the transmission of all types of virus and protects against more severe disease," said Jeffrey SoRelle, M.D., assistant instructor of pathology at UT Southwestern. "In particular, the vaccines appear to provide protection against more severe disease and death, emphasizing the importance of continued efforts to encourage vaccination."
The COVID-19 variant "B.1.617" first emerged in India last October and is seen as being responsible for a wave of infections across the south Asian nation in recent months.
The virus, which the World Health Organization dubbed a variant of concern last week, appears to be more contagious than older coronavirus variants. It also carries mutations that help it evade human antibodies, although early testing shows that vaccines remain effective against it, The News reported.
UT Southwestern has been analyzing samples from coronavirus patients to "give a better picture of how frequent the variants are, and the prevalence of emerging variants such as the Indian and Brazil variants," the hospital said in a news release.
In North Texas, the U.K. variant remains dominant, appearing in about 70% of sampled cases, the hospital says. It's followed by the Indian and Brazil variants -- 6% of samples -- while the California and New York varients are in about 3% of samples.
The Indian variant is not listed as a Variant of Concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but is by the World Health Organization.