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More Contagious UK COVID Strain Found in 2 Kenton Co. Residents

Two Kenton County residents tested positive for the more contagious United Kingdom variant of COVID-19, the Northern Kentucky Health Department confirmed on Wednesday.

The news follows Tuesday's announced by Governor Andy Beshear that the B.1.1.7 (UK) strain of the SARS COV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) had been found in Kentucky. He did not say where. The new was confirmed by the Kentucky Department of Health prior NKY Health's announcement.

The two patients represent the first cases of the strain detected in the state.

NKY Health said that it had already completed disease investigations and contact tracing on the two positive cases prior to receiving word from KDPH about the variant.

These individuals who were positive for COVID-19 were required to isolate/quarantine and those considered in close contact to the cases were notified to quarantine, monitor for symptoms and get tested if feeling ill, NKY Health said. 

The UK variant was first detected in the United Kingdom and has since been detected in 293 cases in 24 states in the U.S. The CDC as well as the KDPH and local health departments have been monitoring the emergence of this strain, including proactively testing positive COVID-19 specimens for variant strains of the virus, NKY Health said. There may be more cases as the state continues to test samples throughout the state. 

"This particular strain of virus is more contagious - it's easier to catch than other strains we have seen thus far in Northern Kentucky," said NKY District Director of Health Dr. Lynne Saddler. "Now more than ever, we all must absolutely be vigilant in using the preventive measures that we know are effective - wearing face masks, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, handwashing and not going to work, school or events if you are feeling ill. These actions will help protect you and those around you. Getting vaccinated when you are eligible will provide an additional level of protection."

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are effective against this variant. It is not known to be more lethal than other variants.

“The vast majority of COVID-19 mutations have no clinical meaning, they don’t functionally have an impact on us if we’re infected. But some of the mutations do cause the virus to be more effective,” said Ky. Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack. “The COVID-19 B117 variant, the one we believe was first found in the United Kingdom, that variant is more contagious. If you get exposed to it, you’re more likely to be infected, so that means it can infect more people more easily.

“It’s not more dangerous or lethal for the person who gets it, but because it spreads to more people more easily, you could have more people who get sick and die. It is more important than ever that we wear our masks, watch our distance, wash your hands and stay at home and get tested when you are sick.”

Meanwhile, Kentucky recorded 2,424 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 227 in five Northern Kentucky counties.

There were 88 confirmed in Kenton Co., 82 in Boone Co., 37 in Campbell Co., 11 in Grant Co., and 9 in Pendleton Co.

Forty-seven additional deaths were reported in the state, including an 84-year old woman from Campbell Co., and 66-year old and 91-year old men from Kenton Co.

The state's positivity rate is 9.35%.

There are currently 1,597 people hospitalized across the state including 387 in intensive care units and 225 on ventilators.

-Staff report

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