The La Crosse County Health Department announced Wednesday a variant strain of COVID-19 was discovered by Gundersen Health System on March 11.
Health officials said it is not clear where the person contracted the variant strain. It is the first variant strain B.1.1.7 of SARS CoV-2 identified in La Crosse County by genome sequencing.
This variant, B.1.1.7, was first discovered widely circulating in England in November and December 2020
and is often referred to as the UK strain, according to the La Crosse County Health Department. The first case of the variant strain in Wisconsin was detected Jan. 12. To date, Wisconsin has identified 31 total cases of B.1.1.7.
Researchers believe this strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain. At this time, the CDC reports a likely increased severity with this strain based on hospitalizations and case-fatality rates.
The La Crosse County Health Department said virus mutations are expected to occur over time and are likely to spread more rapidly until a large portion of the population is vaccinated. Health officials said the current vaccines reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all variants.
The health department asked individuals to continue public health practices such as wearing masks in public, maintaining 6-feet social distancing, washing hands, getting vaccinated, and following guidance from the Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative.