First South African COVID-19 variant case discovered in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – The first case of the South African COVID-19 variant has been discovered in the state, the Department of Health Services.

This new variant, called B.1.351, is completely independent of the one originally discovered to be circulating in the UK, called B.1.1.7.

According to a press release, this variant strain spreads more quickly and easily than the original COVID-19 strain. Researchers do not know if this variant has any impact on the severity of the virus.

“It is important to remember that new variants are expected to occur over time,” said DHS Undersecretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. “Here in Wisconsin, whole genome sequencing of positive COVID-19 case samples is done on a regular basis.”

Health officials noted that this variant can affect the way a person’s antibodies respond to the virus.

The three vaccines that are currently licensed, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, should reduce the risk of COVID-19, even with these variants.

DHS also noted that 26 cases of the UK variant have been found in Wisconsin, up from 19 reported Thursday. There has only been one case of the South African variant, says DHS.

Willems Van Dijk called on Wisconsinites to be vigilant to protect themselves from COVID-19.

“Because these variants can spread more easily than the parent strain of SARS-CoV-2, wearing masks, staying home, physically distancing yourself, and washing your hands remains crucial,” he said.

The department did not indicate in which city or county this new variant was found.

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