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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A cluster of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma, primarily in Cleveland County, has been identified as the B.1.617.2 variant, commonly referred to as the India variant.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health identified 17 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant. Thirteen of those cases were associated with Cleveland County, according to an OSDH news release.

Eighteen cases of the B.1.617.2 variant have been found in Oklahoma as of Friday, May 14.

Variant cases were identified across all age groups; each were symptomatic. The most recent case onset of B.1.617.2 was on May 6. None of the individuals who contracted COVID variant has been hospitalized, according to OSDH.

“Through our sequencing efforts at the Public Health Lab, we have identified a cluster of cases of the B.1.617.2 variant in Cleveland County,” said State Epidemiologist Jolianne Stone. “While we are still identifying all the details of exposure and contact tracing, the presence of variants reinforces the importance of seeking out testing if you are symptomatic. We urge Oklahomans to get tested if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated. Identifying and tracing new variants is critical to our ability to respond and mitigate community transmission of the virus.”

Illustration of changing genetic structure to new strain. (Getty Images)

Three of the 17 people who were confirmed to have the B.1.617.2 variant were fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine and two were partially vaccinated at the time of the virus’ onset, according to the news release.

Symptom onsets range from April 16 to April 27, 2021, the news release states. 

“We are keeping an eye on the B.1.617.2 variant and others as the situation continues to develop,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gitanjali Pai. “As of May 10, the B.1.617 strain is officially considered a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. From what we currently know, vaccination should still provide some protection against the B.1.617 variant, especially against severe illness — which underscores the need for Oklahomans to get the vaccine as soon as possible. As we continue to monitor and learn about variants of COVID-19, we will keep the public updated on our findings.”

B.1.617 emerged in India, has more than a dozen mutations and could be the fastest spreading COVID mutant on the planet, according to an NPR article.

A Reuters article states that both the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine appear to be effective against the India variant.

State health officials urge Oklahomans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and that people with symptoms be tested.

“As we begin our return to normalcy across the nation, variants of any kind present the biggest threat to maintaining the decreases we’ve seen in community spread of the virus,” said Stone. “As variants of COVID-19 emerge, it can become more or less transmissible, or can change in other ways — meaning we may need to adjust how we treat it. Right now we know that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the variants we have identified, but it’s very important people get tested so we can continue tracking emerging variants and adjust our approach if needed.”