MACON – North Central Health District (NCHD) has been informed by one of the labs conducting COVID-19 variant testing that a case of the B.1.1.7 variant, or UK variant, of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified in Houston County. This marks the first identified variant COVID-19 case within NCHD’s 13-county district in Central Georgia.
NCHD is conducting case investigation and contact tracing to identify, inform and monitor anyone who was in close contact with the variant-positive individual. The health district advises all communities in the 13 counties to take the same precautions as if a variant case had been identified nearby and that the variant could be identified anywhere.
“There are still many unknowns about B.1.1.7, but existing evidence does show that this variant spreads rapidly when compared to what we see with the common strain,” said Amber Erickson, NCHD Director of Epidemiology, Community Assessment and Research Initiatives. “Even with the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out across the state, we all need to be more conscious about protecting ourselves and others now that a COVID-19 variant has been identified locally.”
According to the CDC, B.1.1.7, known as the UK variant since it was first identified in England, can spread more easily than the common strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. The variant has now been identified in several countries across the globe, with the U.S. reporting 1173 cases to the CDC. Per the CDC, Georgia has a least 45 cases of this variant, but there are likely unidentified cases throughout the state. Variants like B.1.1.7 that spread easier can lead to more cases of COVID-19, which could put more strain on hospitals and other healthcare providers.
“Until vaccine is widely available to everyone in Georgia, our best tools to stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants are to follow public health’s transmission prevention guidelines,” said Erickson.
NCHD encourages everyone within the district and across the state to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, including variants, by following these actions:
•Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water a not available, us an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
•Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands.
•Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
•Stay home when you are sick.
•Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue. If a tissue is not available, use the inside of your elbow to cover yourself.
•Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch objects and surfaces.
•Keep at least a six-foot distance from others in public spaces.
•Avoid large gatherings or crowds.
•Wear layered face coverings in public spaces.