AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the United Kingdom has been reported in Austin-Travis County, according to a release from the city.
No information about the patient has been released. It was found through lab testing by a private organization in the area and has been reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The city said while Austin Public Health lab testing is able to detect COVID-19, more lab testing is needed to determine different variants. Also, not all labs are able to test for the variants, which is why local data will not be categorized by variants.
APH leaders say while it’s concerning the variant has been detected in the area, it does not come as a surprise. They estimate variants in general have likely been in Austin-Travis County for weeks, after the UK variant was reported in a Harris County man with no history of travel in early January.
“It is important to remember that these COVID-19 variants spread the same way, and so it is important to continue the prevention measures we have been using for almost a year. People need to keep wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and washing your hands frequently,” APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said in the release.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the B.1.1.7 variant was first identified in fall 2020 in the United Kingdom. The agency reports this variant spreads faster and more easily. In January 2021, UK experts said B.1.1.7 “may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses,” but more studies are needed to confirm this.
“From our understanding, currently approved vaccines are effective against the variants, and while this may be a reason to reemphasize the importance of prevention measures, it is not cause for alarm,” Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said in a press release.
The CDC said B.1.1.7 was first identified in the United States near the end of 2020.