BREAKING NEWS: A Rock Island person is the first to be infected with the new, more deadly strain of the South African COVID-19 variant Thursday, Illinois Department of Public Health officials announced tonight.

The variant B.1.351, was found in a Rock Island resident, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. It’s not yet known how the person contracted the disease.

“We expected to see more cases of variants detected in Illinois, including the B.1.351 strain,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a release. “These variants seem to spread more rapidly, which can lead to more cases of COVID-19 and even another surge. Our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible remains wearing our masks and getting vaccinated when it’s our turn.”

“IDPH will continue to work with local health departments, academic partners, laboratories, and CDC to monitor for cases. IDPH has increased its surveillance for this and other variants using genomic sequence testing on an increased number of specimens.”

“Having this new variant in our community underscores the need to take personal precautions to prevent further spread,” the Rock Island County Health Department said in a release. “Please continue to wear your mask when away from home, watch your distance when around others and wash your hands frequently.”

In the U.S., cases of the B.1.351 were first reported at the end of January, health officials said. Studies suggest the antibodies produced through the current COVID-19 vaccines recognize the variant, as well as offer “some protection.”

Below is the release from the health department in its entirety for your perusal:

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Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.