Five cases of the COVID-19 variant found in Minnesota

MINNESOTA (CBS 58) --- The Minnesota Department of Health announced the new variant strain of SARS-CoV-2, better known as COVID-19, has been found in Minnesota. 

Health officials say the results were confirmed Saturday, Jan. 9. 

According to the state's health officials, the new strain was first detected in the United Kingdom and has since been identified by genomic sequencing in positive specimens from five residents of four different counties in the Twin Cities metro area.

According to a news release, four of the cases were identified through the MDH Public Health Laboratory, and one was identified through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The cases range in age from 15 years-old to 37-years-old. Officials say their illness onsets range from Dec. 16 to Dec. 31. None have been hospitalized, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Two cases reported international travel, one did not travel, and the others have unknown travel history.

The investigation into how they were likely exposed and who their close contacts were is continuing.

"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," Minnesota State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said. "Knowing that it is now here does not change our current public health recommendations."

Lynfield said the new strain has not been found to cause more serious disease, though it is thought to be more easily spread from one person to another.

"It is not unexpected to see new, more successful strains emerge," Lynfield said in a news release.

MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said that preliminary studies have indicated the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use are effective against the variant strain. 

Minnesota health officials say it is too early to know what kind of impact this variant strain may have in the state. 

The variant strain of the virus was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020. It has since been found in numerous countries around the world, including the United States, according to a news release. As of Friday, Jan. 8, 63 cases of the UK variant strain have been identified in eight states. 

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