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Shelby County lab detects first COVID-19 variant strain case linked to outbreak in India

The Shelby County Health Department said one case has been detected so far in a person who recently returned from travel in India.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thursday, those with the Shelby County Health Department said they've detected a local case of the COVID-19 variant strain - B.1.617 - that is currently spreading fast in India.

"That virus has been detected this week in Shelby County," David Sweat with the Shelby County Health Department said. "We need to remain vigilant for the arrival of new viruses that could poise a concern to our community. If COVID disease is active anywhere in the world it continues to a risk to us here because the entire world is connected today."

Sweat said the local case is linked to a person who returned after visiting from India, and developed symptoms upon returning.

"It's been one person and we've been working to test his contacts and quarantining."

Health experts said the B.1.617 is called a 'double mutant' since it's also present in the dominant strain right now in California. Doctors believe B1.617 is more contagious than previous strains of the COVID-19 virus. Thursday, Shelby County vaccine organizers also reported good news - a slight uptick in vaccinations this week compared to last. However, because of low weekend demand, the Pipkin Building FEMA site will be closed this Sunday.

Those involved with vaccine distribution said they're also considering shifting days an or extending hours at some sites to accommodate those who work at different hours. Those with SCHD also said they're finalizing the next health directive that currently expires in mid-May. It's too early to tell if there will be any mask mandate changes.

"It's still under development, so we expect to be able to tell you next week what that's going to say," Sweat said. "The virus knows no boundaries, no borders, variants and emerging threats can come to us from anywhere at any given time." 

RELATED: Here's how to get a COVID-19 vaccine if you live in Tennessee, Mississippi or Arkansas