TWIN CITIES, MN — The Minnesota Department of Health Saturday announced that the new variant strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — which was first detected in the United Kingdom in September — was found in the Twin Cities metro area. The COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variant strain, according to state health officials.
The strain was identified by genomic sequencing in five residents of four different metro counties.
Four cases were found by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The fifth was identified through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The results were confirmed Saturday
The cases range in age from 15 to 37 years
Illness range from Dec. 16 to Dec. 31.
None have been hospitalized
Two cases reported international travel
One did not travel
The others have unknown travel history
Minnesota's epidemiologists will reinterview the cases to gather more information. Health officials said it's too early to know the impact of the variant in Minnesota. The investigation is ongoing.
"It’s important to note that this variant strain of the virus has been found in other states in the U.S., so we were expecting to find the virus in Minnesota. Knowing that it is now here does not change our current public health recommendations," said MDH epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield in a news release.
"While it is thought to be more easily spread from one person to another, it has not been found to cause more serious disease," Lynfield continued. "With RNA viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it is not unexpected to see new, more successful strains emerge."
"The fact that the variant strain is thought to be more contagious, but not more virulent, than the viral strains currently in wide circulation in Minnesota reinforces the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing outside your home and quarantining if you’ve been exposed to a positive case," said MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann.
"This virus makes it really hard for people to know whether they or the person next to them is infected – whether this strain or another strain – so we all need to do our part to protect ourselves and each other," Ehresmann said.