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Two More Cases Of U.K. COVID-19 Variant Confirmed In Louisiana

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CDC

The Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed two more cases of a mutation of COVID-19 that was first detected in the United Kingdom.

The confirmed cases were found in Southwest Louisiana, and the department said there are 20 suspected variant cases of COVID-19 through the state. Thirteen of those are in the greater New Orleans area and seven are in Southwest Louisiana.

The state’s first case was detected in the Greater New Orleans area on Jan. 16.

Public health experts suspect that the B117 strain of COVID-19 will become the dominant variant in the United States by March.

The mutation is said to be more contagious than the original dominant strain of COVID-19 and the D614G variant, which became the main variant over the summer. However, vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are effective against the U.K. strain.

“Even though [B117] is more transmissible than the other variants, it is probably the one that is of least concern,” virologist and Tulane University School of Medicine professor Robert Garry, Jr., PhD said.

But Garry said B117 causes illness just as severe as D614G, which, when combined with its higher transmissibility, means more people could be hospitalized.

“It’s not something that we want to discount,” Garry said. “We still need to keep our masks on and social distance.”

Two other mutations of COVID-19 — commonly called the South Africa variant and the Brazil variant — have been detected in the U.S.. The variant that was first identified in South Africa is said to be more resistant to the vaccines, but vaccination can still protect against severe and life-threatening illness.

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine professor John Barry said the country is “in the dark as to what’s circulating in the United States.”

A Washington Post analysis revealed that the U.S. tests less than 1 percent of positive samples of COVID-19. Louisiana has sent .571 percent of its cumulative case samples to the CDC for genome sequencing.

Barry, who wrote “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History,” called the U.S. testing efforts “laughable.”

“We don't know where we are because we don't know what's circulating,” Barry said.

In December, Australia was sequencing more than 50 percent of its samples to detect new variants.

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