RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Department of Health has announced the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of Northwest Virginia who had no history of travel during the exposure period.
VDH says the B.1.351 variant, which first emerged in South Africa in late 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. There is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease, according to VDH. To date, the variant has been identified in 15 other U.S. states or jurisdictions.
The Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) confirmed the case using sequencing that provides a genetic blueprint of the virus that causes COVID-19.
With the identification of this case in the Northwest Region, Virginia has now identified a total of 4 cases of the B.1.351 variant and 20 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom.
With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified, according to VDH.
Viruses change routinely, and VDH expects to see new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as the disease spreads.
In a statement, VDH says:
“As our public health officials closely monitor the emergence of these SARS-CoV-2 variants in our Commonwealth, it is critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures. We are in a race to stop the spread of these new variants. The more people that (sic) become infected, the greater the chance the virus will mutate and a variant will arise that could undermine the current vaccination efforts. Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants. This means wearing masks correctly, staying at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds, 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 on DCLS and its use of next-generation sequencing, visit dgs.virginia.gov/dcls.
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