Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — A variant of the COVID-19 virus has been identified in Jefferson County, the first county to report the presence of the variant in Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed two cases of the COVID-19 variant known as SARS-CoV-2 B. 1.617 in Jefferson County. This variant is referred to as the India variant because it was first detected there.
In a news release issued Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health said this variant is not designated a “variant of concern” because there is no evidence it is more easily transmissible or causes more severe disease than the more typical COVID-19 strain.
“However, we share this information as a matter of public interest given the virus impact and newly issued travel restrictions to India,” the department said.
The two cases were detected in an “adult and older adult.” Jefferson County Public Health Administrator Chris Estle said she could not divulge more information than that due to federal privacy laws.
The county and state public health departments are communicating with the two people and have begun the health monitoring process. This involves notifying anyone with whom the individuals have been in close contact with.
Affected individuals are advised to isolate in according with guidance from Iowa Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These two cases were identified by the State Hygienic Lab, which is doing sequencing to understand which strains are circulating in Iowa.
“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to prevent this, or any other currently circulating strain of the virus from spreading through the population,” said Dr. Caitlin Pedati, state medical director and epidemiologist with the Iowa Department of Public Health. “Since the vaccine is now open to all Iowans over the age of 16, we have the opportunity to use this tool to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.”
Estle said she wants the public to understand that all viruses, not just COVID-19, have the ability to mutate. She mentioned that the influenza virus is constantly mutating, which is why the flu shots developed for it vary in effectiveness from 50 to 90 percent.
Estle said the information about this new strain being present in Iowa came to light shortly after the United States altered travel guidelines for India. On Friday, President Joe Biden imposed travel restrictions on India in light of its surging number of COVID-19 cases.