First Wisconsin documented case of new COVID-19 strain found in Eau Claire County

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department's director says the individual recently traveled internationally

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WKBT) – The first case of the more transmissible variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 just so happens to be in our viewing area.

“It was identified that that individual is an Eau Claire County resident,” Eau Claire City-County Health Department director Lieske Giese said.

Giese said Wednesday night the resident recently traveled internationally.

Only household members were close contacts and had successful quarantines.

“It’s a good example of a positive case having a very, very small number, just household contacts, of close contacts,” Giese said.

Health officials expected this new variant to eventually spread here.

“It is one of the reasons that we really encourage everybody to continue to double down on those efforts that make a difference in the spread of COVID-19,” Giese said.

Raj Palraj studies infectious disease at Mayo Clinic in La Crosse.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has mutated many times, something he says isn’t unusual with other viruses.

“Thousands of mutations have already been identified. And most of these mutations or changes have no consequence at all,” Palraj said.

This new variant that originated in the UK spreads more easily, but it is not more deadly than its predecessors.

“There are no other changes in the way our body reacts to the virus,” Palraj said.

Vaccines should continue to be effective.

“They have tested it in the labs,” Palraj said. “And the antibodies seem to work against these variants.”

And just like most other viruses, Palraj says it’s only a matter of time until the new variant hits the La Crosse area.

Giese says the Eau Claire City-County health department does not expect there to be community spread from this case.

The resident who tested positive was never hospitalized.