First case of U.K. COVID-19 variant identified in Central Virginia

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Health announced the first case of the U.K. COVID-19 variant was identified in an adult resident of Central Virginia.

The VDH said the person who tested positive for the variant had no travel history  during the exposure period for the virus. 

The VDH said the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 first emerged in the United Kingdom in late 2020. The VDH said this variant doesn’t suggest more severe illness than other variants, but it does cause an increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.

The first case of this variant was identified in Virginia in late January. It was found in a resident from Northern Virginia who had no reported recent travel history.

The VDH said eleven other cases of the B.1.1.7 variant and three cases of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa, have been identified in Virginia, as of Feb. 24. 

The health department said while scientists are still trying to better understand the vaccine, early data suggests that the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines are effective against this new variant.

The VDH added that as the virus spreads from person to person, it makes copies of itself and sometimes makes small genetic changes, or mutations. Because of this, variations of the virus are expected to occur overtime. The CDC has documented multiple variants of the virus in the U.S., but the B.1.1.7 variant contains an “unusually large number of mutations.”

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