COVID-19 Variant Information

What are variants and how are they created?

Once viruses enter the body, they start to reproduce, which causes them to change and become more diverse. The changes are then studied by scientists and if it causes a significant enough change to the structure of the virus and how it interacts with the body or the way it spreads, it is labeled as a variant.

Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants persist. Some variations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. Those variants must be monitored more carefully. Currently, the CDC has divided these variants into three categories: variant of concern, variant of interest, and variant of high consequence. 

Key Variants in Montana: 

During the first three weeks of September 2021, 100% of specimens collected and sequenced were of the Delta variant.

Information accurate to September 21, 2021. 

variants in montana by county 9-21

For more information on COVID-19 variants, and specific variants in Montana, visit the DPHHS website. 

Variants of Concern

According to the CDC, a variant of concern seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.

  • Alpha: It was first identified in U.K., but was first detected in the United States in December 2020.  This variant has ~50% increased ability to be passed between individuals. It potentially has an increased severity based on hospitalizations and case fatality rates
  • Delta: It was first identified in India in December 2020, but wasn’t detected in the United States until March 2021. This variant has an increased ability to be passed between individuals.  It may cause more than 2x as many infections as previous variants. Some data suggest the Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons.
  • Gamma: It was first identified in Japan and Brazil.

variants of concern 9-21

Data accurate to September 21, 2021. More information can be found on the CDC website. 

CDC's Introduction to COVID-19 Variants

CDC's Detailed Explanation of Variants

Variant of Interest

According to the CDC, variants of interest have the potential to spread more easily and quickly, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19, but are currently not spreading as quickly as the variants of concern.

  • Iota:  It was first identified in United States (New York) in November of 2020.
  • Eta: It was first identified in the United Kingdom and Nigeria in December of 2020.

variants of interest 9-21

Data accurate to September 21, 2021. For more information, visit the CDC website