MACON – North Central Health District (NCHD) has been notified of additional COVID-19 variant cases by the labs conducting variant testing. Three additional cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, or UK variant, of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified in Houston and Putnam Counties. Total local variant cases in NCHD as of March 24, 2021, are as follows:
- Houston County: 2
- Putnam County: 3
NCHD advises all communities in the 13 counties to take the same precautions as if a variant case had been identified nearby and that the variant could be identified anywhere. Variant testing is very limited and there are likely more cases of variants within the district.
“As we continue to document additional variant cases I our area, it’s important to keep in mind that there are likely more unidentified cases in our communities,” said Amber Erickson, NCHD Director of Epidemiology, Community Assessment and Research Initiatives. “Variant testing is limited in Georgia, and not all positive tests are screened for variants. That’s why it is so essential for our residents to be vigilant when it comes to following public health guidelines.”
B.1.1.7 can spread more easily than the common strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. The variant may be linked to an increased risk of death, but more studies are needed to confirm this characteristic. The variant has been found in several countries across the globe, with the U.S. reporting 7781 cases to the CDC at the time of this release at the time of this release. Per the CDC, Georgia has a least 350 cases of this variant, but there are likely unidentified cases throughout the state. Variants like B.1.1.7 that spread easier can lead to more cases of COVID-19, which could put more strain on hospitals and other healthcare providers.
In addition to the B.1.1.7 variant, the U.S. continues to see increases in cases of the B.1.351 and P.1 variants of COVID-19, known respectively as the South African and Brazilian variants. Here in Georgia, variant testing has discovered 15 cases of B.1.351 and 1 case of P.1.
“All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. by emergency use authorization provide some level of protection against the know COVID-19 variants,” said Erickson. “However, until there is more data, we will not know just how effective the vaccines are against the variants.”
NCHD encourages everyone within the district and across the state to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, including variants, by following these actions:
- Get your COVID-19 vaccine when you can – the best COVID-19 vaccine is the one available to you.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water a not available, us an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue. If a tissue is not available, use the inside of your elbow to cover yourself.
- Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch objects and surfaces.
- Keep at least a six-foot distance from others in public spaces.
- Avoid large gatherings or crowds.
- Wear layered face coverings in public spaces.