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Jul 12, 2021

Epsilon Variant in Belize for Months; No Word Yet on Delta

While many Belizeans spent the last two weeks concerned about the Delta variant of COVID-19 and wondering whether or not it is in Belize, it seems the Epsilon variant has been among us since March.  That’s right, since March. Over the weekend, the Minister of Health and Wellness confirmed to News Five that the variant was identified in strains sent to Baylor University before Easter.  The results of more recent samples sent to Baylor University are not yet back.  So we still do not know if Delta is present in Belize.  What we do know is that several of these are in nearby Mexico and Guatemala.  Since the Epsilon strain was first identified in California, it has now spread to forty-seven countries, including Belize. Here is what the experts at the Ministry of Health told us about the variant, which has been downgraded from a ‘variant of concern’ to a ‘variant of interest.’

 

Natalia Largaespada Beer

Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Maternal & Child Health Technical Advisor, M.O.H.W.

“The changes in the virus, the majority of them are called mutations. When there is changes that are significant, they are being classified as variants. And within the group of the variant; you have different types of variants. You have variants of concern, and you have variants of interest. And it is like the traffic light system where the variant of concern would be red and the variant of interest is yellow, and mutations that cause no negative effect and the transmissibility or the clinical presentation of the disease we can classify those as changes but in green. So Epsilon went from red to yellow.”

 

Geraldine Morazan

Geraldine Morazan, Laboratory Director, Ministry of Health & Wellness

“It is important to understand that the original COVID-19 virus has evolved. With this evolution, in itself it is doing regular mutations, changes. So, from now that we faced with COVID-19, it is not the same COVID-19 genetically as the one we were facing when we pandemic started in 2019.  We are lucky that variants of interest, they have a good response with the vaccine. Our body produces enough antibodies, and they are able to fight infecting with the variants of interest. Some variants of concern, the body with the vaccine with still be able to work and attack it. However, if we don’t get the vaccine and allow the virus to continue with unrestricted mutation, then we fear that later on the vaccine will not be able to do its job.”

 

The current variants of concern listed by the World Health Organization continue to be Alpha, Betta, Gamma and Delta.  The Ministry of Health continues to stress the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent hospitalizations and even death. Today’s COVID-19 data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness reports one new COVID-19 death.


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