Michigan health officials identify new, more contagious COVID-19 strain in Washtenaw County

Michigan health officials have identified the first case of a new strain of COVID-19, discovering a female adult in Washtenaw County with the variant.

Designated B.1.1.7., the new strain is believed to be a more contagious version of the coronavirus that's rolled over the state and country for the last nine months.

The case arrives as Michigan has begun increasing the eligibility for getting a vaccine, an effort to boost rates of inoculation partly over fears the new strain would come stateside soon.

State officials first notified the public about the positive test Saturday in a press release. Chief Health Executive Joneigh Khaldun called the virus's arrival "concerning, but not unexpected.

"We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible. We continue to urge Michiganders to follow a research-based approach by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often, and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn," said the MDHHS chief in a statement.

When the new variant was first identified in the United Kingdom at the end of 2020, officials weren't sure if treatments, as well as the new vaccines, would be less effective against it.

So far, studies have indicated current tests, and vaccines work just as well against it. 

The case identified in Washtenaw County was found in a female who had recently traveled to the U.K.

Close contacts with the individual have been identified and are now in quarantine. At the time, officials have identified two new cases that have been in contact with the woman but aren't sure if they are carrying the more contagious variant.

While the new variant doesn't cause worse outcomes relative to the original strain, it does present a new complication in keeping the state's test positivity rate and hospital capacity down. The state is currently rebounding from a second surge that pushed health care systems around Michigan near capacity.

Stay with Fox 2 for updates.