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India COVID-19 variant confirmed in Iowa, health officials say not “variant of concern”

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(KWWL) -- The Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed two cases of an India COVID-19 variant, formally known as SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617, in the state.

The two cases have been identified as an adult and an older adult in Jefferson County. Public health has contacted both individuals, are conducting tracing procedures, and advising that anyone affected isolate.

The cases were identified in the State Hygienic Lab, which is doing sequencing to test for COVID-19 variants.

This strain of the virus was first detected in India, and while health officials are still learning about its characteristics, the IDPH is not designating it as a "variant of concern."

Unlike the U.K. and the Brazilian variants which have been considered "variants of concern", health officials are saying there is not currently evidence that this strain has increased transmissibility or causes a more severe illness.

Recently, India's COVID-19 infections and deaths have rapidly spiked, with thousands dying every day and the number of cases nearly doubling in the past 3 months. Starting on Tuesday, the US is restricting travel to India.

Here in Iowa, health officials continue to encourage people to get vaccinated to slow the spread of circulating variants. Previously, officials have said that the U.K. variant is likely the dominant strain in Iowa.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to prevent this, or any other currently circulating strain of the virus from spreading through the population," IDPH State Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati said. "Since the vaccine is now open to all Iowans over the age of 16, we have the opportunity to use this tool to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.”

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