RICHMOND, Va. - The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced Friday that a case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of Eastern Virginia with no history of travel outside of Virginia.
The B.1.1.7 variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom in late 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. A preliminary report from experts in the United Kingdom indicates that this variant causes more severe illness than other variants, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding.
Additionally, a second case of the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant, which was first identified in South Africa, was also identified in an adult in Eastern Virginia. This variant was first identified in Eastern Virginia on Feb. 5. Currently there is no evidence to suggest that this variant has any impact on disease severity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working with state public health, academic, and commercial laboratories to increase domestic strain surveillance capacity to sequence thousands of specimens every week. This effort has greatly expanded VDH's ability to detect and characterize emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants in the United States.
The CDC notified the Commonwealth of both cases that were identified through these efforts at a commercial laboratory. To date, Virginia has now identified a total of six cases of the B.1.1.7 variant and two cases of the B.1.351 variant. With state health officials' surveillance efforts, they say it is likely that more cases will continue to be identified.
Viruses change all the time, and VDH expects to see new strains as disease spreads. As state public health officials closely monitor for the emergence of the B.1.1.7 variant and other variants in Virginia, they say it is important that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures. This means wearing a mask, staying at least six feet from others, washing hands often, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is your turn and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
For more information about COVID-19 variants, visit the VDH COVID-19 Testing website and the CDC New COVID-19 Variants website. For more information on DCLS and its use of next-generation sequencing, click here.