OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Douglas County Health Department is seeing a rise in coronavirus cases this week. In February the county was down to 15 cases per 100,000 people on a seven day average. We are not seeing about 26 cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day average.
There have also been 71 variant cases reported in Douglas County. So far 50 of the B.1.1.7 or the UK variant, 19 of the California variant, and two cases of the Brazilian variant.
Those 71 cases of different variants are just a fraction of how many cases there could be in our community.
The Nebraska public health lab performs genetic sequencing to detect different variants. They randomly choose about 100 specimens a week to test. Different variants have shown to be more contagious and, in some cases, can cause more severe symptoms.
"The one thing that we noticed maybe so far with the UK variant is that it does seem to affect pediatrics more often than we were seeing with the wild virus. That's just based on some local data that we are looking at," said Justin Fredrick, supervisor of communicable disease, epidemiology.
There are two age groups experiencing a large increase in cases this week.
"We're seeing big increases in the 20 to 39 age group. We've seen actually in the last week about a 57 percent increase. And in the 40 to 59 year old we also saw about a 63 or 64 percent increase in that age group as well," said Fredrick.
Justin Fredrick believes there could be a few factors to the sudden rise in cases, such as people going out and enjoying the warmer weather, spring break travel, and those who gathered to celebrate St. Patrick's day, but the different variants could also be playing a role.
"So this uptick in cases, could it potentially be the result of variant viruses being established in our community? I think that is a good chance," said Fredrick.
Scientists said these variants are more contagious than the original coronavirus. Fredrick reminds us to keep washing our hands, practice social distancing and continue wearing our masks, but says there is only one way to stop the virus from mutating and getting worse.
"Getting vaccinated will stop transmission, and if we stop transmission, we stop replication of the virus and therefore prevent it from mutating any further," said Fredrick.
Eighty-two patients diagnosed with the coronavirus are being hospitalized. Twenty-nine of those patients are in the ICU, and 10 patients who are either diagnosed with the virus or waiting on results, are currently on ventilators.