RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) -The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first identification in a North Carolina resident of the COVID-19 variant called B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom in December.
The B.1.1.7 variant was identified in a sample from an adult in Mecklenburg County processed by Mako Medical Laboratories. To protect the privacy of the individual, no further information will be released.
In the United States, 195 cases of B.1.1.7 had been reported in 22 states as of Jan. 22. Early data suggest that this variant may be more contagious than other variants. Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against the new variant.
“While expected, identification of this COVID-19 variant in North Carolina is concerning, especially at the same time as we are already seeing very high numbers of cases,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. “It is more important than ever to practice the 3Ws.”
Health experts say this new strain seems to infect people more easily but there is no evidence yet it is more deadly.
“The virus mutates, we expect that, most viruses do,” Charlotte primary physician Dr. Melissa Jones, who owns private practice called “Priority Care,” told WBTV. “The flu virus has mutations, we do tweak the vaccine for that every year because of that.”
Dr. Melissa Jones says virus mutations, like the new strain of COVID-19, should not be taken lightly.
“We do need everybody to do their part and part of that is like what we’ve already been doing,” Dr. Jones said.
The recent lab sample confirmed here in Mecklenburg County that was infected with that new strain is a cause for concern, according to Dr. Jones.
“We need to be concerned, we need to keep watching it,” she said. “We need to try to keep the numbers down as much as possible.”
State health officials advise people to stay home except for essential activities and avoid gathering, especially indoors, with people who do not live with you. If you absolutely must travel or be with people you do not live with, get tested in advance, keep it small and outdoors and always wear a mask.
North Carolina’s Modified Stay at Home Order is in effect. This order requires people to stay at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Businesses including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses, most retail stores and more, are required to close by 10 p.m. In addition, all onsite alcohol consumption sales must end by 9 p.m.
A safe and effective vaccine is now available for health care workers, long-term care residents and staff and adults over 65.
Supplies are very limited, and people may have to wait. For more information visit yourspotyourshot.nc.gov.
Claudia Timsurenm who was one of 16,000 people who signed up to get the vaccine this weekend at the mass vaccination drive at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, said she is hoping to protect herself and others from getting infected with the coronavirus.
“We’re not afraid of it, we’re not afraid of dying but I also want to live and enjoy my family,” Timsuren said.