Purdue University on Tuesday confirmed five cases of the UK COVID variant connected to the campus community.
The first four cases were confirmed before the start of the spring semester among students who had traveled internationally. Those students were quarantined and Purdue officials say contact tracing found no evidence of spread.
A fifth case was confirmed about a week ago in a healthcare worker off-campus.
Officials with the Indiana State Health Department have previously stated that state privacy guidelines require information about communicable diseases in a county cannot be released until there are five or more cases.
Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said knowing the variant is here doesn’t change much for how the community should respond - and wouldn’t have changed anything had they been able to report the variant cases sooner.
“The message would have been the same,” he said. “The same protective measures that we all need to continue doing. Now we just know the variants are here and we need to double down on our efforts.”
Adler said that the variant is likely present “in greater numbers” than can be confirmed because of limited testing.
Purdue University also announced it has opened a special lab dedicated to testing for the UK COVID-19 variant. The lab will only test students, employees, faculty, staff, and family members directly connected to the Purdue community.
Adler said Tippecanoe County testing will go through a state lab.
“What they do is each week test a number of samples randomly,” he said. “They also run tests on samples where there is a high suspicion for a variant strain.”
Adler continued to emphasize that face covering, social distancing, and staying home when you are sick are still the best protective measures against the virus.