File Photo – Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center. | Photo provided by Lake County Government.

The first case of a COVID-19 variant that originated in the United Kingdom has been identified in an infected Lake County resident, officials said on Saturday.

The Lake County Health Department said the variant called B.1.1.7 was identified in a person who traveled internationally. They were in contact with a sick person before they returned to the United States in late December.

The person quarantined themselves from others and got tested once they returned to Lake County. The person did not experience symptoms of COVID-19, health officials added.

“While new cases of COVID-19 have been declining since January, the emergence of this new variant right here in Lake County underscores how important it is that remain vigilant,” said Mark Pfister, Executive Director of the Lake County Health Department.

“We all must continue to follow the precautions of wearing masks, washing hands, keeping 6 feet of distance from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces to limit the spread of the virus,” Pfister added.

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Health officials say that viruses constantly change and new variants are expected. In addition to the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, the 1.351 variant in South Africa and P.1 variant in Brazil have also recently emerged.

“We expect to see more cases of these new variants in Lake County as they seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants,” said Dr. Sana Ahmed, Medical Epidemiologist for the Lake County Health Department.

Ahmed said it is extremely important to follow quarantine recommendations and get tested if you have traveled or have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus.

“Answer the call of contact tracers to help us protect our communities. Wearing masks, washing your hands, and keeping your distance from others continue to be effective in preventing the spread of the virus, regardless of the strain,” Ahmed said.

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Studies suggest that the currently available COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the new strains but additional studies are underway, the Lake County Health Department said.