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Nebraska identifies "U.K." variant of COVID-19; this mutation is believed to be more contagious

There are emerging variants of COVID-19 – like in the U.K. and South Africa -  which the lab is now in the process of getting, to begin testing on those.
Posted at 4:57 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 17:57:52-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — In a news release Friday afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Nebraska Public Health Lab (NPHL) confirmed the first known case of the U.K. variant of COVID-19, also known as B.1.1.7 (B-117), in the state. The individual is a woman in her 20s and is a resident of Douglas County.

“This is not a surprise as this variant has been found in 45 other states,” Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said in a separate news release. “This strain is more easily transmitted, but the available vaccines have shown to be effective against it.”

According the Douglas County Health Department a thorough review and contact tracing is underway.

“The state has long stated that we suspected these new variants of this virus were circulating in Nebraska and we have been vigilant in our genomic sequencing efforts to quickly identify new variants to slow the spread. Masking, distancing, and getting vaccinated remain our best defenses against these new variants,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer for DHHS.

This particular variant is more easily transmitted, but both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown effective against it. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is expected to be approved soon and was endorsed by a panel of health advisors at the FDA on Friday.

“This is one more good reason for people to continue to mask-up, practice social distancing, and get vaccinated,” Dr. Pour said.

According to the DHHS release, "Nebraska’s top goal remains protecting hospital capacity. The efforts undertaken by the state over the course of the emergency have resulted in significantly lower hospitalizations as compared to the last several months."