On Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) confirmed two additional cases of the COVID-19 variant, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7, in Southwest Louisiana.
This brings the state's total number of confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant to 5.
Two cases have been identified in Region 1 (Greater New Orleans) and 3 have been identified in Region 5 (Southwest Louisiana).
The variant is frequently referred to as the U.K. variant because it was first detected in the United Kingdom.
LDH says that the variant spreads more easily from one person to another than other viral strains currently circulating in the United States. However, current COVID-19 vaccines are thought to be effective against this variant strain. Further study is needed to determine if there is increased disease severity associated with the B.1.1.7 strain.
The two additional B.1.1.7 cases were detected in individuals in Southwest Louisiana. According to LDH, case investigations and contact tracing were performed to identify, inform and monitor anyone who was in close contact with the cases. The individuals did not report a history of travel outside of Louisiana.
Another 20 additional suspect variant cases are pending confirmatory testing. Of these suspect cases, 13 are in the Greater New Orleans area and 7 are in Southwest Louisiana.
Most local SARS-CoV-2 laboratory tests are not able to provide results that can identify suspect B.1.1.7 variant strains, and not all suspect B.1.1.7 variant strains will continue to be sequenced for confirmation purposes. As a result, the number of suspect and confirmed B.1.1.7 variant cases reported do not represent the total number of B.1.1.7 cases that are circulating in Louisiana.
Future updates to Louisiana B.1.1.7 cases counts can be found on CDC's website here.
Because this variant strain is more contagious and known to be circulating in Louisiana, LDH says it is more important than ever that everyone:
- Wear masks,
- Practice social distancing,
- Avoid gatherings,
- Avoid travel,
- Stay home when sick,
- Practice hand hygiene,
- Quarantine and get tested if exposed to a positive case, and
- When eligible, consider getting the COVID vaccine.
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