The Minnesota Department of Health released information regarding a new variant strain of COVID-19 that has now been found in five Minnesota residents.
According to a press release from the MDH, State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said, “It’s important to note that this variant strain of the virus has been found in other states in the U.S., so we were expecting to find the virus in Minnesota. Knowing that it is now here does not change our current public health recommendations.”
The cases confirmed in Minnesota range from ages 15 to 37. Two of them traveled internationally recently, one did not, and the others have unreported travel history. None of the cases have been hospitalized, and MDH is still investigating each case to obtain more information about where they were likely to have been exposed.
The new strain is believed to spread quicker, but “it has not been found to cause more serious disease,” Lynfield said.
MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann noted in the news release that the fact that this strain is considered to be more contagious than, but not as serious as, the current strain “reinforces the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing outside your home and quarantining if you’ve been exposed to a positive case.”
“This virus makes it really hard for people to know whether they or the person next to them is infected — whether this strain or another strain — so we all need to do our part to protect ourselves and each other,” Ehresmann said.
The MDH said the COVID-19 vaccine should be effective against the new strain, according to early studies.
The impact of the new strain and the “control of the spread” will depend on how many people get vaccinated, Lynfield said.
Alpha News reached out to Dr. Scott Jensen, a practicing physician and former state senator, for a statement regarding the new strain.
“The development of new viral strains is common, especially among respiratory viruses,” Jensen said. “This occurrence does not need to be perceived as dangerous nor does it necessarily interrupt progression toward herd immunity.”