If you've checked on the Indiana State Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard lately, you may have noticed something new.
The state health department is now tracking the number of COVID-19 variants in the state, such as the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, also known as the "UK variant".
Data provided Tuesday by ISDH shows the UK variant currently dominates the known number of variant cases throughout the Hoosier State, with 1,210 identified cases of the UK variant alone, compared to 321 identified cases of the other three known variants combined.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box says that the number of variant cases shown on the dashboard is taken from a small portion of positive COVID-19 samples to reflect the prevalence of each variant, not fully revealing the number of each variant throughout the state.
“Keep in mind that we are only able to sequence a small percentage of the thousands of samples that are submitted each week,” Dr. Box explained. “So this part of the dashboard will only show the prevalence of variants among a small sample.”
The combined number of 1,531 positive variant samples identified accounts for 38.1% of all samples tested, according to ISDH.
The UK variant of COVID-19 first made its way to the River City in January after first being detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020. Officials with Deaconess Health say the variant still poses a threat.
"We are seeing about 70% of the UK variant in our region," said Dr. Gina Huhnke, Emergency Medicine Specialist at Deaconess. Doctors warn that the UK variant is highly contagious, and say that right now, they're mainly seeing it among our youth. Dr. Huhnke says our best chance at fighting off the virus is still vaccination.