I-Team: Is it here? What we know about the Lambda variant in Nevada

Coronavirus

Variant first found in Nevada in June

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A variant of the coronavirus circulating across the United States is causing concern, but since the I-Team first told you about Lambda earlier this summer, Nevada has reported no new Lambda cases.

According to the World Health Organization, Lambda was first discovered in Peru last year. Since April, it’s been responsible for more than 80 percent of cases reported there.

In early July, the I-Team reported that researchers had detected the variant in wastewater in southern Nevada, suggesting it was spreading in the community. The Nevada State Public Health Laboratory had also sequenced samples of the Lambda variant in June.

However, since then, no Lambda cases have been reported, Dr. Mark Pandori, the laboratory’s director, said Friday.

Most coronavirus cases in Nevada, about 94% over the past week, are from the Delta variant, he said.

“Lambda may in fact be biologically significant, but because Delta is screaming through the population right now, there’s no room for Lambda,” he said.

Viruses mutate over time to survive. The more people who remain unvaccinated, the more opportunity the virus has to mutate.

There now are about 1,500 known cases of the Lambda virus mutation in the United States, Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told KLAS’ sister station, WPIX.

“What makes it dangerous is that it’s highly infectious and can resist some of the vaccine-induced immunity and spread easily between people,” Poland said. “The truth of the matter is, if you are unvaccinated, you now enter the most dangerous phase of the pandemic for your health and your family’s health.”

Other variants are circulating in addition to Delta and Lambda, but they have yet to rise to the level of concern as Delta, Pandori said, because the vaccine appears to resist them.

About 95% of all breakthrough cases in Nevada, cases where a vaccinated person became positive for the virus, involve the Delta variant, Pandori said.

The Lambda variant appeared in the United Kingdom several weeks ago. Health officials there wrote in part, “There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.”

Nevada reached a vaccination milestone on Friday, with more than 50% of residents now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

As of Aug. 19, more than 2.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and reported to Nevada WebIZ and 60.53% of residents age 12 and older have initiated vaccination. 

Nevada reported more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths Friday.

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