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.
“LDH has confirmed the state’s first case of the more contagious COVID-19 variant that has been identified in the United Kingdom, and it is urgent that everyone double down on the mitigation measures that we know are effective in reducing the spread of the virus,” said Gov. Edwards. “It was always a matter of time before this new strain of the virus would reach Louisiana, which is why our state health experts have been monitoring cases and working with the CDC to prepare. There is no such thing as taking this too seriously. Our case counts and hospitalizations are increasing daily and deaths from COVID have reached an alarming rate. I implore everyone to wear a mask, avoid people and places that are not implementing the mask mandate, social distance, wash your hands frequently and do not go around anyone if you are sick. Even with the vaccines available, controlling our behavior with the measures that are proven to help keep us safe is our best defense against spreading this virus to our family, friends and throughout our communities.”
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.