Coronavirus

A Hillsborough County resident has been diagnosed with a COVID-19 variant strain that spreads more easily and may lead to greater risk of death, according to state officials.

The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday afternoon that the person, an adult, has the first known case of the B.1.1.7 variant in the state.

That person had close contact with someone else who has also been diagnosed with COVID-19 after traveling internationally, DHHS stated in a news release. The agency clarified that the person infected with B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, did not travel.

The N.H. Joint Information Center, which is fielding coronavirus-related questions, declined Friday to provide more information about the person with the B.1.1.7 variant, including their hometown, citing state and federal privacy laws.

DHHS has conducted contact tracing and tested close household contacts for possible asymptomatic infection, the agency stated in its release. It has not identified any other instances of potential exposure in the community.

“The presence of a COVID-19 variant in New Hampshire is not surprising, and we will likely see increasing numbers of infections from the B.1.1.7 variant,” state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said in the release. “The CDC has estimated that the variant will likely become the predominant circulating variant in the U.S. in the near future.”

That variant spreads faster and more easily than the more common version of COVID-19 and may be associated with an increased risk of death, compared to other variants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the CDC says early reports indicate it does not have any effect on vaccine efficacy.

The B.1.1.7 variant has now been detected in at least 37 other states, according to the CDC. The CDC’s latest tally does not yet include New Hampshire or Maine, which announced Thursday that it had detected the strain. (Also on Thursday, the Vermont Department of Health announced that the viral strain is “most likely” present in Burlington after the city detected two COVID-19 mutations associated with the B.1.1.7 variant in its wastewater.)

In the DHHS release, Chan encouraged Granite Staters to follow public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask, washing hands and avoiding close contact with others. He also urged anyone with “new or unexplained symptoms of COVID-19” to be tested for the virus.

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.