The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has confirmed the state’s first two identified cases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the India B.1.617 variant.

The B.1.617 cases were detected in individuals in Region 7 (Northwest Louisiana), though the variant had already been circulating in neighboring states. Although these are the first reported cases of the B.1.617 variant in Louisiana, it is likely that there are additional undetected cases circulating.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified the B.1.617 variant as a variant of concern. It is potentially associated with increased transmissibility. Current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against this variant strain.

There are now multiple variants of concern circulating in Louisiana: B.1.1.7 (U.K.), B.1.427/429 (California), P.1 (Brazil) and B.1.617 (India). The COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection against these and other strains of SARS-CoV-2, including variants that may spread more easily or cause more severe disease. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can also help prevent new variants from emerging: every infection that is prevented means the virus has one less chance to mutate.

Everyone 12 years of age and above is currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Information about vaccination locations can be found here or by calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 855-453-0774. The hotline can also connect individuals with medical professionals to answer questions about the vaccines or help callers schedule vaccine appointments and homebound vaccinations.