HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state Department of Health’s State Laboratories Division (SLD) confirmed on Monday, June 14, that the COVID-19 variant B.1.617.2, also known as the Delta variant, has been detected in an Oahu resident who recently traveled to Nevada in early May.
The Delta variant was also reported in Nevada in early May.
The person was fully vaccinated prior to travel and had a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing Nevada.
DOH said the person developed mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 several days after returning to Hawaii and tested positive for coronavirus.
The individual was isolated and close contacts were quarantined. There is no evidence of household transmission or secondary cases.
“Fortunately, this person did isolate and household contacts quarantined,” explained Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist. “It doesn’t appear that any further transmission has resulted from this case.”
She said most of the household members were vaccinated which helped prevent the virus from spreading.
“We have an example here of why even though vaccine is not 100% of the time,” Dr. Kemble added. “It’s still incredibly important and effective at slowing the spread of even these novel variants.”
The Delta variant was first detected in India, where the virus sparked a public health crisis in April and May. The variant now makes up approximately 6% of all U.S. cases.
“It’s a variant of concern, because in the United Kingdom, when the virus was there, originally in small numbers, it expanded and has become now the dominant strain in England,” explained State Laboratories Division Administrator Edward Desmond. “So this is one of the reasons why it’s a variant of concern that tends to become dominant, which suggests that it may be more transmissible.”
“Early evidence suggests the Delta variant might spread more quickly than other SARS-CoV-2 strains,” said Dr. Desmond. “There are reports the Delta variant produces a higher rate of severe illness than original COVID-19, but we do not yet have enough evidence to support that conclusion.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes the Delta variant as a variant of concern.
“The vaccines not only help protect against infection, they protect against severe illness,” said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “While this is one of those very rare breakthrough cases in which the vaccine did not prevent infection, the infected person did not suffer severe illness.”
The state will allow vaccinated residents to return to Hawaii and travel inter-island freely without restrictions starting Tuesday, June 15.
Dr. Kemble said she believes that’s a safe move, but it wary about mainland travel.
“Travel to and from the mainland is a little more of a concern because there are some pockets in the United States where vaccine rates are much lower,” she added. “We do see continued importation of variants from some of those states.”