A more contagious strain of the coronavirus was detected for the first time in Alaska, health officials announced Tuesday.
The new strain, first detected in Great Britain, spread faster and easier among people, state epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin told reporters Tuesday.
“That means that people really need to step up their efforts to reduce transmission,” said McLaughlin. He said the COVID-19 vaccine was still effective against the British variant.
In December, a resident of Anchorage became infected with a strain of the virus after the person was recently in a state where a previous virus variant had been detected, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The person started showing symptoms of the virus on December 17, tested on December 20 and received a positive result on December 22.
After learning a positive result, the person is isolated, even though someone who lives with him also falls ill. The two have recovered and had no contact with anyone else, the health official said in the statement.
“We hope that transmission of this particular variant stops in these two individuals, but we will most likely detect more variant strains soon,” said state chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink in prepared statement.
So far, 293 cases of the virus variant have been detected nationwide in 24 different states, including Washington State, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, only a fraction of the cases across the country were ranked to find the tensions.
Alaska public health officials said it was not unexpected to find the virus in Alaska. Earlier this month, federal officials from the CDC said a variant of the virus could become the dominant strain of coronavirus circulating in the United States in March.
The strain is not thought to make people sicker, but increased transmission of the virus could mean more people are infected at once. It can stress the health care system and cause more deaths, According to the CDC.
The state of Alaska has been sequencing COVID-19 cases since March, which is a way to search for new variants. The state virology lab at Fairbanks discovered the strain of the British variant, which was later confirmed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks laboratory, before the state health department finally notified the CDC of its findings on Monday.
Finding a new variant is a process that takes several days. The state lab had passed a stack of specimens indicating a possible variant when the British strain was detected, Jayme Parker, head of the Alaska Public Health laboratory, said in a phone call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. The ordering is tiring and states have been able to hone their technique over time, a process that accelerated in December.
“I would not say that we were very behind in the sequence because since then we have been able to sequence more recent samples, we just haven’t found a variant in that specimen,” Parker said.
Alaska accounts for about 4% to 5% of its cases, namely a most of the cases than the national average, and closer to the percentage of viruses sequenced in Great Britain, where the new variant was first detected in September.
Health officials continue to emphasize that to prevent further spread of COVID-19, including new strains, practices such as staying 6 feet or more away from other people, wearing face covers, washing hands, avoiding gatherings, keeping social bubbles small and isolating. having experienced symptoms is very important.
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