Health officials in Indiana have identified a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 among residents testing positive for the virus.

The Indiana Department of Health says the new strain is the same one identified in the United Kingdom last fall. The variant spreads more easily, but health officials say it does not cause more severe infections.

“It’s common for viruses to mutate, and we are seeing that occur with COVID-19,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box. “Because this strain of the virus can be transmitted more easily, it’s more important than ever that Hoosiers continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene and get vaccinated when they are eligible.”

Indiana officials confirmed the identity of the variant through testing at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain, known as B.1.1.7, has been identified in states on both coasts and in the country’s interior.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 567,338  Indiana residents have tested positive for the virus and 8,643 have died. 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.