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Health Department Says 7 Cases of More Transmissible Brazil COVID-19 Variant In Louisiana is 'Tip of the Iceberg'


A representative from the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed Wednesday that five more cases of the Brazil variant of the coronavirus have been found in Louisiana.

The more transmissible variant was identified in LDH regions 1, 2, 5 and 6. For reference, cities in those areas include New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Monroe.

The health department first reported that the Brazil variant was found in the state on April 29 — one known case in the New Orleans metro area and one known case in Southwest Louisiana.

Kevin Litten, communications strategist for the Health Department, said genome sequencing for the P1 variant takes longer than testing for the U.K. variant B117. These seven tests were likely conducted in early April.

Litten said the department is stressing that positive results for any of the variants reveal only the “tip of the iceberg.” Health officials suspect there are many more cases of the P1 variant circulating in Louisiana.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called P.1 a variant of concern because it can spread more easily and it has been known to be resistant to some treatments for COVID-19. The press release reported that some data indicates that it may also be linked to a higher chance of developing severe illness.

The U.K. variant and the California variant have also been identified in Louisiana in previous months. The health department says all available COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness from these variants.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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