A more contagious mutation of the coronavirus has been detected in the greater New Orleans area, the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed Saturday.
The variant is the same one that was first detected in the U.K. It was first identified in the United States in Denver.
“It is urgent that everyone double down on the mitigation measures that we know are effective in reducing the spread of the virus,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a letter posted on gov.louisiana.gov. “It was always a matter of time before this new strain of the virus would reach Louisiana, which is why our state health experts have been monitoring cases and working with the CDC to prepare.”
In a city press conference on Jan. 6, New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said people should assume the mutation was already in the state.
The strain is said to causes illness similar in severity to the one that has been in the U.S. at least since early 2020, but it is much more contagious. The rate of transmission can rise quickly and can result in more hospitalizations and more deaths.
The governor’s letter said that the health department has been sending biweekly samples to the CDC since November 2020 and that the State Public Health Laboratory is working with clinical labs throughout the state to look for suspected mutant strains.