Byers: Mississippi testing lab samples for new variant strain of COVID-19

Byers: Mississippi testing lab samples for new variant strain of COVID-19
The CDC says COVID-19 will be a Top 10 leading cause of death for 2020. Data from 2018, the most recent year available, indicates the virus will rank third behind heart disease and cancer. (Source: CDC via CNN)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - State health officials have sent virus samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decide whether they are the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19.

“We haven’t identified the variant strain in Mississippi, but we do have some strains in lab tests that have looked suspicious (that we’re) following up on,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said. “We’re sending them to the CDC for a whole-genome sequencing.”

Byers spoke during the Mississippi State Medical Association’s weekly COVID-19 update.

He said that to date the more infectious B117 strain has not been identified in the state. However, he said that does not mean it is not already present here.

“We probably do have some in Mississippi that we just haven’t detected yet,” he said.

He said that people could protect themselves from the new strain, the same way they do from the initial strains, by practicing social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding non-essential social gatherings and the like.

Byers did not say where the samples being tested came from.

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