Dr. Krista Queen from LSU Health talks about the newest strain of COVID 19, known as B.1.630. Queen is the Director of Viral Genomics and Surveillance for the Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats at Shreveport's medical school.

Shreveport LSU Health is first in the state to sequence and report that this new variant of COVID-19, has been detected in Louisiana. The new variant, called B.1.630, was sequenced last week from two samples collected in Baton Rouge. Sequencing is a laboratory method used to determine the genetic makeup of a virus.

Here's everything Dr. Queen told KEEL about the new strain:

"Right now the numbers are still so low for this new variant that it's not an imminent threat," says Dr. Queen, "But because it does have some of the characteristic mutations that could make it a threat in the future, it's one we're definitely watching. That's why when we saw it pop up in Louisiana, we wanted to let people know."

The B.1.630 variant was first detected in the United States in March of this year. It does not have variant classification or a Greek alphabet name like the commonly known Delta variant because it accounts for such a small proportion of samples. Currently, there have only been 79 of these variants found in the US, so the predominance is very low.

"Delta came on a lot quicker," says Queen, "We started seeing a few low numbers from Delta, then in a matter of weeks it really took over. This new variant doesn't have those (transmissable) mutations. (But) we have to watch anything that pops up right now."

And what about this new variant and the holiday season? Could this latest COVID spin-off cause cases to once again spike?. "Without have the other mutations that would cause it to be more highly transmissable than Delta, I don't think that's going to be likely," Queen says, "But we're going to keep an eye on it, because with holiday travel, that's when we get these new strains and variants, so we're watching it very closely."

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