Washington health officials have confirmed that the first cases of the COVID-19 variant from the UK have been detected in the state.
In a news release, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), the Snohomish Health District, and the UW Medicine Virology Lab, announced the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 had been found in testing samples in Snohomish County.
“We thought this variant of concern was here, and now we know it’s here. It was a huge team effort by the UW Medicine Virology Lab and required [the] development of several new rapid tests to detect and confirm it,” said Dr. Alex Greninger, Assistant Professor of the Clinical Virology Lab at UW Medicine, in a news release.
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Although these are the first detected B.1.1.7 variants in the state, it is likely that other cases exist and will come to light through ongoing surveillance.
“Containment protocols are no different for B.1.1.7 variants than they are for all other cases of COVID-19. Follow-up investigation is underway to learn more about these cases and the individuals who tested positive for this strain,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no conclusive evidence that the new strain causes more severe illness or an increased risk of death. The CDC has estimated that the new strain will become the dominant strain in the US within a few months. Data provided by the CDC also shows that, through January 22, there were 195 detections of this variant in 22 states.
The Washington State Department of Health is reminding the public to keep the community safe by continuing to follow these guidelines:
- Wear a mask, even with people you see regularly and in your smallest social circles;
- Keep gatherings outside whenever possible;
- Avoid any social gatherings indoors, but if participating, wearing a mask and ensuring windows and doors are open to maximize ventilation;
- Wear a mask while in the car with other people, including with family who do not live in your household;
- Wash hands often, not touching your face, and carrying hand sanitizer for use when water and soap are not available;
- Stay home if you are sick or if you have been exposed to COVID-19;
- Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive.