The Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed the first case of a COVID-19 variant strain in Mississippi resident on Monday.

A case of the B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, was detected through "routine testing for work and confirmed at an out-of-state lab," according to MSDH Communications Director Liz Sharlot.

No international travel or spread to contacts is known to have occurred, but MSDH said additional investigation is ongoing.

The B.1.1.7 variant strain has been identified in 40 U.S. states and is known to spread more easily and quickly than other strains. While it is suspected that the strain causes more severe infection or a higher risk of death, there currently is no direct evidence of that.

MSDH said it will continue to expand surveillance for variant strains in Mississippi, and "it is likely that additional cases will be identified," according to a release.

Current available vaccines are expected to be effective against variant strains, but research into the matter is ongoing.

The health department continues to encourage Mississippians to wear masks, social distance, avoid large gatherings and wash hands frequently.

Vaccination is also encouraged for those who are currently eligible: Mississippi residents or those who work in Mississippi who are ages 65 and older, or those 16-64 with certain underlying conditions, healthcare personnel and residents of long term care facilities.

Drive-thru vaccination appointments can be scheduled by visiting covidvaccine.umc.edu or calling the COVID-19 hotline at 1-877-978-6453.

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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