EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A new strain of COVID-19 is in Eau Claire County. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says it discovered the first known case of the UK variant, known as B117 in the state yesterday. First News at Nine’s Max Cotton explains how to protect yourself from it.
The COVID-19 UK variant, officially known as B117, is in Eau Claire County. But, Doctor Ken Johnson, Chief Medical Officer with Prevea Health and HSHS Sacred Heart Emergency Room Physician says there’s no need to panic.
“It is normal for the COVID-19 virus, for that entire family to have mutations occurring on a regular basis. The vast majority of them do not create any changes in terms of infectivity or other issues,” said Johnson.
Doctors say though the UK variant is more contagious, it doesn’t cause more severe symptoms. Johnson says we can contain the virus, but we’ve got to keep wearing masks and social distancing.
“It just reinforces our need to take precautions against the spread of COIVD-19, and people have gotten tired of it but I think it’s important that we not let our guard down,” said Johnson.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Infectious Diseases Dr. Ryan Westergaard says because the variant strain is more contagious, it could lead to more infections overall, causing problems.
Westergaard said, “If there are a lot more infections overall, even if the risk of severe disease for anyone infection is the same, that’s going to translate to more severe infections and more hospitalizations. So that is the way in which these pose a really important public health threat that we need to take seriously.”
There is some good news about the UK variant strain. Johnson says COVID-19 vaccines will likely protect you from it.
“Usually the vaccine is aimed at several proteins, not just one, and it’s very highly unlikely that this variant would not be covered by the vaccine,” said Johnson.
He adds, it’s important to continue getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
In Eau Claire, Max Cotton, First news at Nine.
Local health officials say the person originally tested positive late last month and quarantined, which should limit community spread.