Hancock Public Health says the first Hancock County case of new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7. was identified in an adult female resident who tested positive for the virus on March 7th.
On March 26th, Hancock Public Health was notified of the results of the ongoing surveillance and whole genome sequencing aimed at finding out the extent of the spread of variants of concern into communities.
All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, change through mutation, and new variants of the virus are expected to occur over time.
This variant, referred to as B.1.1.7, was first discovered to be circulating widely in England during November and December of 2020. Based on epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers believe that this new strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
There is some evidence emerging that the new strain may cause an increased risk of death.
“It is concerning, but not unexpected, that we have identified a case of a variant that spreads more easily. Since only a small portion of tests collected are genetically sequenced, this means that there are likely many more cases of this variant spreading in our communities,” said Karim Baroudi, Hancock Public Health Commissioner.
“Viruses constantly change as they spread from person to person and replicate. Fortunately, we can prevent the virus from replicating and mutating by consistently using all the tools we have for stopping the spread,” he added.
He said based on available evidence, current vaccines for COVID-19 also work against this new variant.
Protective actions that prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also prevent the spread of the new variant, B.1.1.7. it is critically important, with emerging mutations of SARS-CoV-2, and those that may be more infectious, to follow best public health practices including:
-Get vaccinated for COVID-19.
-Wear a mask around others.
-Keep gatherings small and stay 6 feet apart from others.
-Wash hands often.
-Always opt for the outdoors or well-ventilated indoor spaces.