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COVID-19 Variants in Ohio

Introduction

Thanks to genomic sequencing, which looks at the genetic code of the virus, scientists can get an idea of which COVID-19 variants are present in Ohio.

How do we know how much of each variant may be present in Ohio?

Genomic sequencing, which looks at the genetic code of a virus to determine the variant, is performed on a portion of positive COVID-19 samples collected from across the state. For sequencing to be possible, there must be enough of a sample (e.g., nasal swab specimen taken at the time of the COVID-19 PCR test) remaining after the test is complete, and there must be enough of the virus detected in that sample. If either of these criteria are not met, the sample cannot be sequenced – therefore, not every PCR-positive sample can be sequenced. Labs are required to report these sequencing results to the Ohio Department of Health. The whole process of collecting the sample, testing it, sequencing it, and reporting it can take a minimum of 3-4 weeks. Looking at the percentage of variants detected in these samples provides a snapshot of the variants that may be present in Ohio’s population.

What kind of test samples can be examined for variants?

Samples collected for COVID-19 can be tested in two different ways – a PCR test (e.g., nasal swab specimen processed by a laboratory, and results are available one or more days after the sample is collected) and a rapid antigen test (over-the-counter or at-home tests with results in as little as 15 minutes). When a PCR test is conducted, and there is enough sample remaining with enough of the virus present, that test can be sequenced to determine its genetic code – and therefore, which variant it is. Rapid antigen tests cannot be sequenced.

Can I be tested only for a specific variant?

No. The Delta variant, and other variants, are detected through genomic sequencing of PCR test results – not through a separate test designed only for a specific variant. The same diagnostic PCR test sample that is taken to detect whether someone has COVID-19 is the same sample that may later be sequenced to determine the variant of the virus.

Will I find out if I have a specific variant?

No. When someone receives a positive COVID-19 test, they don’t find out which variant they might be infected with – just whether or not they have COVID-19. Sequencing is later conducted, when possible, for the purpose of better understanding trends and to see what the state is experiencing in terms of variant presence for the entire population.

Should I do anything differently because of a specific variant?

You should use preventive measures to protect yourself. Most importantly, choose to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which can prevent you from getting severe COVID-19 resulting in hospitalization or death. In addition, practicing layered prevention methods will add protection – like choosing to wear a mask, maintaining distance from others, and practicing good hand hygiene.  

When was this data last updated?

The data on this dashboard is updated weekly on Monday. However, it takes a minimum of three to four weeks from the time a sample is collected until sequencing results are available. The graphs on the chart below show the most recent data for two-week periods ending on the date listed.