NEW ORLEANS — A strain of the COVID-19 virus thought to be more infectious than the standard strain has been confirmed in the New Orleans area, state officials confirmed.
The virus strain is frequently referred to as the U.K. variant because of its prevalence in the United Kingdom.
Saturday, officials with the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed that a patient in the greater New Orleans area had contracted the U.K. variant. That person reportedly has a history of out-of-state travel.
LDH officials conducted contact tracing on the patient to determine likely contacts.
While health experts believe the current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the mutated virus, the U.K. variant is more contagious, meaning it can spread to more people. Officials had already been speculating that the new strain was circulating in Louisiana -- it has already been confirmed in 15 other states -- but the patient confirmed Saturday is the first concrete evidence seen.
News of the new infection comes on the back of a wave of coronavirus sweeping the state of Louisiana. The U.K. variant is not believed to cause more severe symptoms, so LDH experts say strict adherence to current preventative measures -- social distancing, frequent hand washing, mask use -- should be just as effective in preventing its spread.