RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The first COVID-19 variant case in Virginia has been identified, according to the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services.
The departments said the case of SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7, the variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom in late 2020, was found in a resident from northern Virginia who had no reported recent travel history.
“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver. “We know this variant strain spreads more quickly between people than other strains currently circulating in our communities, but we still have more to learn about whether it causes more severe illness.”
DCLS said it confirmed the case using next-generation sequencing that provides a genetic blueprint of the virus that causes COVID-19, and that it informed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the case.
The CDC has reported 195 cases of the UK variant have been detected in 23 states as of Jan. 22.
The VDH said while scientists are still trying to better understand the vaccine, early data suggests that the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines are effective against this new variant.
The VDH added that as the virus spreads from person to person, it makes copies of itself and sometimes makes small genetic changes, or mutations. Because of this, variations of the virus are expected to occur overtime. The CDC has documented multiple variants of the virus in the U.S., but the B.1.1.7 variant contains an “unusually large number of mutations.”