EDMONTON, AB – The first case of a highly contagious variant, which is sweeping across India, has been confirmed in Alberta.

While the specific health zone hasn’t been released, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says B1617 has been detected in someone returning from inter-provincial travel.

The variant of interest, as it’s being called, is currently fueling a massive COVID spike in India with that country reporting more than 300,000 cases in a single day.

Hinshaw says it’s not yet known if this strain is more infectious than other variants or if it will respond differently to vaccines.

“At this point in time, while we’re looking very closely at the evidence, there hasn’t yet been an assessment from the Canadian perspective when we look at the evidence that this particular variant is shown to have a decreased response by the vaccine.”

Hinshaw notes key messaging around hand hygiene, masking, distancing, and being tested when you’re sick remains the same regardless of the COVID strain.

Alberta reported 1,857 new cases of COVID-19 over the past day and 71 percent of them were variants of some kind.