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First case of new, highly-contagious COVID-19 variant identified in Georgia teen, health officials say

The Georgia resident is an 18-year-old male with no travel history, and is currently in isolation at home.

ATLANTA — Georgia health officials confirmed the new COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, is now in the state. 

The Georgia Department of Public Health said Georgia’s first case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 was discovered during analysis of a specimen sent by a pharmacy in Georgia to a commercial lab.

The Georgia resident is an 18-year-old male with no travel history, and is currently in isolation at home, they said. They are working to identify close contacts of the individual and will monitor them closely and test them for the variant.

Preliminary epidemiologic information suggests that this variant is significantly more contagious than the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the health officials. However, there is no evidence that the B.1.1.7 variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death, they added.

The first person in the U.S. known to be infected with the variant was identified last month as a Colorado National Guardsman.

Just last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the variant strain is something “to follow very carefully” and “we’re looking at it very intensively now.” 

He said: “Does it make someone more ill? Is it more serious virus in the sense of virulence? And the answer is, it doesn’t appear to be that way.” British officials are telling their U.S. colleagues it appears that the vaccines being rolled out will be strong enough to deal with the new variant but, Fauci said, "we’re going to be doing the studies ourselves.”

DPH Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey said this should be a wake-up call for all Georgians.

“Even as we begin roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine, we must not let down our guard and ignore basic prevention measures – wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently,” Toomey said. 

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