KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — One person in Kalamazoo County has contracted the more contagious COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, public health officials say.
The patient is an 80-year-old who has no travel history.
The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department said Thursday that it would be conducting contact tracing to find everyone who had close contact with the patient and get those people to isolate for 14 days.
“The identification of the B.1.1.7 variant in Kalamazoo County underscores the importance of our community wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding social gatherings, washing our hands, getting tested for COVID and getting vaccinated,” health department medical director Dr. William Nettleton said in a statement.
The variant, which was originally identified in the United Kingdom, is more transmissible than the dominant strain but so far does not appear to cause more serious illness.
Health officials say that while they have confirmed only the one case, it is possible there are more in Kalamazoo County. They say that local testing sites are submitting samples to the state lab as part of an effort to proactively search out the variant.
Earlier today, Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said 28 cases of the variant had been confirmed in Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
“If this variant becomes more common, as national experts predict it could, then we could see a very rapid rise in cases and more hospitalizations and deaths,” Khaldun said. “We’re working very closely with our local health departments to make sure we are aggressively identifying any potential outbreaks and slowing the spread of this variant as much as possible.”