COVID cases remain stable in Roanoke region
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - COVID-19 cases continue to hold steady in Roanoke, with the Omicron subvariants B4 and B5 presenting themselves as the dominant strains.
Dr. Cynthia Morrow joined us on the WDJB7+ Digital News Desk Tuesday with updates on the COVID cases in the region, but also the Hepatitis A epidemic and Virginia’s cases of Monkeypox.
The Roanoke City Alleghany Health Districts reported a little fewer than 500 new cases in the last week.
Dr. Morrow said Tuesday the dominant strains appear to be the Omicron B-4 and B-5 variants.
While they don’t appear to be more severe than previous sub-variants, Morrow said they do evade some antibody response from prior infection and vaccine. But vaccines, she said, are still out best tool at preventing serious illness and death.
While the hospitalization data currently available are incomplete, Dr. Morrow said preliminary data indicate hospitalizations are about on par with those from recent weeks- which is about 15 to 16 cases per week.
Morrow said it’s reasonable to expect a slight bump when the July 4 holiday data roll in, though she doesn’t expect anything major.
“I think it is likely with the Fourth of July holiday that we’ll see increases,” she explained. “I think that we may be seeing increases because of the B4, B5 changing proportions, even without the holiday.”
Dr. Morrow said there is ongoing discussion about whether new vaccine booster shots will be made available that more specifically target the newer variants.
Assuming there is a fall rollout, which Morrow said is not confirmed nor guaranteed, she believes this could include a vaccine with better protection against omicron.
The FDA has not yet approved of a next dose. She speculates it could become an annual fall booster.
Meanwhile, uptake for the COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of five has been slow. Dr. Morrow said the Virginia Department of Health expected the numbers to be relatively small, attributing it to being such a new vaccine.
The RCAHD is administering about 20 to 30 of the under-five shots a day on the days when vaccine clinics are held.
HEPATITIS A EPIDEMIC:
Hepatitis A cases continue to hold steady, particularly in Roanoke City. Recently, the RCAHD would document just two to three cases a year. Now they’re noting two to three cases per week.
Currently there have been 72 cases recorded this year, with 52 hospitalizations.
Morrow’s main concern is making sure food handlers are aware and take every precaution they can.
“We are continuing in an epidemic situation,” she said.
Dr. Morrow said a case of Monkeypox has been identified in the southwest region, but she was unable to be more specific regarding the location per reporting guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health.
Globally, experts have documented about 5,000 cases, with 460 of those coming from the U.S. and 16 of those in Virginia.
Overwhelmingly, Morrow explained, the virus is identified in men who have sex with men, with the virus being passed through close, intimate contact. Morrow said there was evidence to suggest the virus could be passed through prolonged face-to-face contact, but was less likely.
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