A Lancaster County resident has been diagnosed with the state's first case of COVID-19 caused by the South African variant of the disease.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that the case caused by the B.1.351 strain is under investigation.
The South African variant not only is considered a more contagious strain of the disease, but some studies have also shown that vaccines are less effective against it than some other strains.
It also is relatively rare in the U.S. so far, causing only about 1% of COVID-19 cases so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department said the case was a young adult who recently traveled to another state where the variant has been reported.
This marks the 28th confirmed variant case in Lancaster County. Of the other 27, 21 are what's known as the U.K. variant, and six are of a strain known as the California variant.
Statewide, almost 300 variant cases have been identified so far, the Department of Health and Human Services said. Nearly all of those are either the U.K. or California variant. In addition to the one case of the South African variant, there has been one case of the New York variant and two cases of the Brazilian variant.
It's believed there are likely more variant cases than are being caught through sequencing of positive tests. Though the state has beefed up its sequencing capabilities, it still only is able to sequence about 200 test results per week. As of Wednesday, the state was averaging more than 300 cases of COVID-19 per day.
Vaccinations appear to provide at least some protection against all the variants, and state and local officials continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine is available to anyone 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine is available to anyone 18 and older.
As of Friday, more than 35% of Nebraskans 16 and older have been fully vaccinated, according to DHHS. Lancaster County Health Department data shows that as of Friday, 42.4% of county residents are fully vaccinated, and 60% are partially vaccinated.
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