RICHMOND, Va. - The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) announced Monday that the state's first case of a COVID-19 variant has been identified.
VDH officials say SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of Northern Virginia who has no reported recent travel history.
The variant, which was first reported in the United Kingdom in 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.
DCLS confirmed the case using sequencing that provides a genetic blueprint of the virus that causes COVID-19. Officials say DCLS has informed the CDC of the case.
“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “We know this variant strain spreads more quickly between people than other strains currently circulating in our communities, but we still have more to learn about whether it causes more severe illness. As our state public health officials closely monitor the emergence of the B.1.1.7 variant in our Commonwealth, it is important that all Virginians continue following mitigation measures.”
Health officials say the variant have been detected in 23 states as of January 22.
Scientists are still working to better understand its impact on vaccine efficacy.
According to the CDC, multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the U.S. and around the world. The B.1.1.7 variant, which was found in Virginia, contains an unusually large number of mutations.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says scientists are already preparing to upgrade COVID-19 vaccines to address the variants of the coronavirus now circulating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
DCLS began sequencing positive COVID-19 samples in March 2020, becoming one of the first public health labs in the nation to use this technology.
As of Monday, DCLS says they have sequenced more than 10 percent of positive samples tested by the state lab, and is working with other labs in Virginia to solicit additional positive samples to sequence so public health officials can get a representation of variants circulating throughout Virginia.