Harris County confirms first-known Texas case of COVID-19 variant

Harris County health officials confirmed the first-known case in Texas of the COVID-19 variant that was first seen in the United Kingdom and is believed to be more transmissible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, variant B.1.1.7 is associated more "efficient and rapid transmission", but there is currently no evidence to suggest that it has any impact on the severity of disease or vaccine efficacy.

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Harris County Public Health says the individual is a man in his 30s in southwest Harris County and has no travel history. He is stable, in isolation, and will remain there until cleared by public health officials.

HCPH epidemiologists are identifying, notifying, and quarantining all close contacts and are conducting a thorough investigation in conjunction with the Texas Department of State Health Services 

"The health and safety of everyone in our community remains our top priority. Though mutations of a virus are expected, we are closely monitoring this case and any potential contacts to prevent the ongoing spread of the virus at all levels," said Dr. Sherri Onyiego, health authority for Harris County, "The prevention measures for this strain are no different and our community should continue staying home in addition to wearing facemasks, social distancing, getting tested, and washing your hands frequently. We know that our community is growing COVID fatigue, but as cases and hospitalizations are steadily increasing, now is not the time to drop our guard down."

The first case of this variant in the U.S. was reported in Colorado on December 29. Since then, more than 50 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to CDC data.

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HCPH urges the public to stay home and get tested. Officials say the positivity rate has gone up to 15% with nearly 250,000 confirmed cases in Harris County as of Thursday.

In addition, health officials ask residents to continue wearing facemasks, practice social distancing, wash hands often, and avoid all gatherings with individuals who don’t live in their households, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

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