The UK variant of COVID-19 is in South Dakota, what does that mean?

Coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The South Dakota Health Department has confirmed two cases of the UK coronavirus variant in Minnehaha County. Health officials say neither patient was hospitalized and both have recovered.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton says there are a lot of similarities between the UK variant and the existing strain of COVID-19.

“The common symptoms for both COVID-19, as well as this variant, are fever, cough, shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell. As well as some other additional symptoms depending on how severe your infection is,” Clayton said.

Since it was first identified in September, there have been several studies on the UK variant.

“It does appear to be more transmissible, that individuals are able to be infected more quickly than the existing strain of COVID-19,” Clayton said. “And that we believe it may also be more severe for individuals who become infected, leading to more hospitalizations as well as deaths.”

Clayton says all three COVID-19 vaccines being distributed are safe and effective against this variant. Dr. David Basel with Avera Health says vaccination efforts could help keep the hospitals from seeing another surge in cases because of this variant.

“So right now, we’re just seeing one or two cases of this and it’s likely to see a few more cases over time,” Basel said. “So, if we can get enough people vaccinated and get the numbers down low enough before this starts to spread, we can cut it off before it really starts the surge again.”

Both Basel and Clayton emphasize the importance of continuing to protect ourselves.

“Making sure that we’re paying attention to physical distancing, avoiding crowds, making sure that we’re wearing masks and doing the other things that help keep us safe and healthy throughout the year like washing hands and covering your coughs and sneezes,” Clayton said.

“One of the reasons why we’ve still been encouraging that, even after people are getting vaccinated, because the fewer people that are being able to spread this right now, the slower this spread of this will be so we can get enough people vaccinated,” Basel said.

The variant first showed up in the U.S. in December, and has spread to just about every state. Minnesota has also confirmed the Brazilian and South African variants.

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