Today, the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed the state’s first identified case of the COVID-19 variant, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7., frequently referred to as the U.K. variant because it is prevalent in the United Kingdom, in an individual in the Greater New Orleans area.
This variant spreads more easily from one person to another than other viral strains currently circulating in the United States, though It has not been shown to cause more severe disease. Health experts believe current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variant strain.
The Department conducted a case investigation and contact tracing to identify, inform and monitor anyone who was in close contact with the individual, who has a reported history of travel outside of Louisiana. However, the variant strain has been detected in at least 15 other states and is likely circulating in Louisiana as well.
Because this variant strain is more contagious, it is more important than ever that Louisianans:
- Wear masks,
- Wash hands,
- Practice distancing,
- Avoid gatherings,
- Stay home when sick,
- Quarantine and get tested if exposed to a positive case, and
- When it is your turn, consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Department has been preparing for this variant strain by participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance Program and has been sending bi-weekly samples to the CDC for sequencing since November 2020. The State Public Health Laboratory is also working with clinical laboratories throughout Louisiana to conduct targeted surveillance for suspect variant strains.