Health officials investigating possible Delta variant outbreak in Athlone

ireland
Health Officials Investigating Possible Delta Variant Outbreak In Athlone
HSE officials have identified cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Athlone.
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Vivienne Clarke

Dr Una Fallon, director of Public Health HSE Midlands, has issued an appeal for anyone who attended social events along the banks of the River Shannon in Athlone on Friday, June 11th, to attend test centres, following a cluster of outbreaks that may involve the Delta variant.

“Over the weekend it became apparent that there was a cluster of cases that were associated with socialising in that area and the key timing of that was Friday, June 11th,” she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Fallon said that the cases involved had been identified as “probably the Delta variant”.

There were 14 primary cases associated with that time and place. “We know that each of those lives in a home, in a household, many of those go to work, so we have other links to that basic cluster.”

Travel

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Identifying the cases wasn't necessarily unusual, she said, except that the HSE had been investigating another incident that was travel related.

“We were screening for the Delta variant in relation to that other incident and we sent a batch of tests for what we call S-gene screening and some of these came back with S-gene positive results for some of the cases associated with that cluster.”

“That evidence and number of cases and number of secondary cases started to grow over the weekend. It's particularly difficult for us to investigate or control this type of setting — we can have a school cluster outbreak or a workplace outbreak, and it's very easy to engage with the stakeholders get a very precise list of who was exposed, identify close contacts, get them tested, track them, put controls in place and there's a beginning, middle and end to the outbreak, but when we have something like this which is really much more vague, but very precise in terms of time, place and person, the only thing we can do is to appeal to the community that might have been at risk and to ask them if they were connected in any way to that timing and place, or someone who has subsequently become a case, to present for testing,” she explained.

House parties

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People travel to locations together and leave together, she said. There was also information about some house parties that evening.

“Social distancing tends to be very good at the beginning of the night, maybe not so good at the end of the night, so we cannot just say with controls in place and social distancing that there's been outdoor transmission, it's all of the risks that surround that occasion and that gathering that lends itself to transmission.

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“But we do know that the Delta variant is more transmissible, and we do know that we have to protect the people who are either unvaccinated or who are partially vaccinated, vulnerable people, and we really want to protect our health services not just hospitalisations and ICU, but also our community health services.

“When we have outbreaks like this, they extend, their tentacles stretch far and wide.

Outbreaks

“In order to protect people we would like to control this kind of situation and get people tested. These are young people, many of them work, and we really don't want them to go to work if they have minor symptoms. They tolerate minor symptoms, and then we don't want them to go on to other superspreader events like funerals or parties.”

Dr Fallon encouraged anyone who attended the event to register on the HSE portal for a Covid test or to attend at the pop up centre this week at St Aloysius College in Athlone.

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