The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has confirmed two additional cases of the COVID-19 variant, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7.
This variant, they say, is frequently referred to as the U.K. variant because it was first detected in the United Kingdom. This 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 the variant strain. Further study is needed to determine if there is increased disease severity associated with the variant strain.
LDH says that the additional confirmed B.1.1.7 cases were detected in an individual in Region 5 (Southwest Louisiana), and in an individual in Region 1 (Greater New Orleans area). A case investigation and contact tracing were performed to identify, inform and monitor anyone who was in close contact with the Region 5 case. This individual did not report a history of travel outside of Louisiana. Case investigation and contact tracing are ongoing for the new Region 1 case.
Another 14 additional suspect variant cases are pending confirmatory testing. Eight of these suspect cases are in Region 1 and six are in Region 5. The state's first confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 variant was identified in Region 1.
Because most local SARS-CoV-2 laboratory tests are not able to provide results that can identify suspect variant strains, LDH says there are likely to be many additional B.1.1.7 variant cases in Regions 1 and 5 that are undetected. This variant is likely to be circulating in other parts of Louisiana as well.
Future updates to Louisiana B.1.1.7 cases counts can be found on CDC's website here. However, these case counts only represent the variant strains that are confirmed through genomic sequencing and do not accurately reflect the true number of variant cases.
Because this variant strain is more contagious and known to be circulating in Louisiana, it is more important than ever that everyone:
- Wear a mask,
- 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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