More contagious United Kingdom COVID-19 variant identified in Douglas County

photo by: Kevin Anderson/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence-Douglas County health department's home at the Community Health Facility, 200 Maine St., is pictured in this file photo from July 2010.

A variant of COVID-19 that was originally detected in the United Kingdom has been identified in Douglas County, according to a news release from the local health department on Thursday evening.

The B.1.1.7 variant is about 50% more contagious than the COVID-19 strain that is common in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to reports from experts in the United Kingdom in January, the variant might also be associated with increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but the CDC states that more studies are needed to confirm that finding.

The variant case announced Thursday evening is the first of the B.1.1.7 type to be identified in Douglas County and one of about 30 cases identified in Kansas in recent weeks. Disease investigators determined the case was travel related.

Douglas County’s health officer, Dr. Thomas Marcellino, and deputy local health officer and infectious disease specialist Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher encourage Douglas County residents to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing, limiting gatherings and washing their hands.

“With what we are seeing with the virus in other parts of the country right now, we don’t want to let our guards down so that we can continue to see the success we have had in Douglas County at keeping our numbers down,” Schrimsher said in the news release. “It’s important to not get complacent even as thankfully more and more people in our community are getting vaccinated, especially those at most risk for experiencing death or hospitalization. We can’t let up now.”

Marcellino encouraged residents to wear masks that fit snugly or to double-mask. He also encouraged residents to get vaccinated.


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