COVID-19 variant found in La Crosse County; same health guidelines apply, experts say

Expected COVID-19 variant discovered by Gundersen researchers; doctors warn of more variants if strain keeps spreading
Variant In La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Gundersen Health System researchers found a COVID-19 variant in La Crosse County. The discovery comes as case numbers are declining locally.

“I’m tired, you’re tired, we’re all tired of all these things we’ve been having to do,” Jacquie Cutts said  as she asked community members to continue following safety guidelines.

Light shined once again when the Wisconsin State Patrol delivered a vaccine to La Crosse County in December.

“As soon as you can get vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Cutts said.

The new variant casts a little shade on the progress made in the community. Gundersen’s team of researchers found the B.1.1.7 variant, a muted strain of COVID-19 in the region, according to Paraic Kenny.

Kenny’s team discovered five total patients — one in La Crosse County, two in Allamakee County, Iowa, and two in Adams County.

“The one that was described in the United Kingdom,” Mayo Clinic’s Dr. John O’Horo said.

Variants existed for a while during the pandemic, according to O’Horo. Doctors in La Crosse recently identified where the strain is.

“This has likely been circulating at some level in the community already,” O’Horo said.

The virus’s arrival came as no surprise to Cutts.

“No need to panic, this was expected,” she said.

As far as advice to the community, doctors say not much changes, but health practices in place carry more weight. This strain spreads easier, and some evidence suggests it produces more severe infection according to health experts in La Crosse. Health leaders continue to research how variants affect patients.

“There’s less room for error with these practices than there was with prior strains,” O’Horo said.

Even though exhaustion fills the souls of communities nationwide. La Crosse health experts ask people to hold the line a little longer.

“If I act the way I’m supposed to act and you act the way you’re supposed to act, it doesn’t matter if the eight people around us are or not,” Cutts said.

“We can’t slack off. We need to stay on top of it.”

Kenny said a strain in South Africa is showing signs of resistance to vaccines. More mutations could happen if the variant keeps spreading, he said.