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First Case Of COVID Variant From United Kingdom Confirmed In N.H.

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State health officials announced Friday that a highly contagious variant of COVID-19 has been detected in New Hampshire for the first time.

According to a press release from the state Department of Health and Human Services, a Hillsborough County resident recently in close contact with someone who traveled internationally has tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the UK variant.

The state has performed contact tracing, and at this time believes there is no risk to the community of further spread, according to the press release.

“The presence of a COVID-19 variant in New Hampshire is not surprising, and we will likely see increasing numbers of infections from the B.1.1.7 variant,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, in a statement. “The CDC has estimated that the variant will likely become the predominant circulating variant in the U.S. in the near future."

Chan urged residents to continue wearing a mask, observing social distance and washing their hands regularly. People who show symptoms of COVID-19 are also urged to get a test for the illness.

According to the CDC, New Hampshire is the 39th state to identify the strain, which has also spread to more than 80 countries. Both Vermont and Maine confirmed their first recorded cases of the UK variant on Thursday. 

According to public health officials, the B.1.1.7 variant is upwards of 50 percent more infectious and transmissible. State officials said, “however, the COVID-19 vaccines appear to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19 from this variant.”

At least two other strains of COVID-19 have also been identified, including a variant first identified in South Africa, and another in Brazil.

The CDC warns that “these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.”

(This story will be updated as more information becomes available.)

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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