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COVID-19 variant discovered in La Crosse County



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.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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