First case of South Africa COVID-19 variant identified in northwest Virginia


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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WFXR) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced Tuesday the first case of the South Africa COVID-19 variant was identified in an adult resident of northwestern Virginia.

The VDH says the person who tested positive for the variant had no travel history during the exposure period for the virus. 

The SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351, which first appeared in South Africa in late 2020, has an increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. However, the VDH says there is no evidence that being infected with this variant will lead to a more severe case of the disease.

As of Tuesday, March 2, the department says there are now four cases of this variant identified in the Commonwealth — including one in southwest Virginia — and 20 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom.

Since viruses often mutate, health officials expect new variants of SARS-CoV-2 as it spreads. Because of this, the VDH says it is critical Virginians comply with mitigation measures to help stop the spread of these new variants.

“We are in a race to stop the spread of these new variants,” the VDH said in Tuesday’s statement. “The more people that become infected, the greater that chance the virus will mutate and a variant will arise that could undermine the current vaccination efforts.”

To help prevent the spread of the virus, Virginia health officials suggest wearing your face mask correctly, staying six feet away from others, avoiding crowds, getting vaccinated when it’s your turn, and staying home if you catch COVID-19.

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