ST. PAUL -- Health officials say they have identified five cases of a variant strain of COVID-19 in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed five cases in residents of four counties in the Twin Cities metro Saturday. They say those people range from 15 to 37 years of age with symptoms starting between December 16th and 31st.

Health officials say they do not believe any of the people have been hospitalized due to the virus, and they are continuing to investigate where exposure to the strain may have happened.

State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield says while the strain seems to be more contagious than others it does not appear to cause more serious illness.

While it is thought to be more easily spread from one person to another, it has not been found to cause more serious disease. With RNA viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it is not unexpected to see new, more successful strains emerge.

The MDH says it is too early to tell what impact the new strain will have on the state but continues to recommend social distancing, hand washing, and mask-wearing.

The variant strain was first discovered in the United Kingdom back in September. According to the CDC, there have now been at least 63 cases identified in eight states.

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