VIRGINIA, USA — A variant of the COVID-19 virus first found in the United Kingdom last year has been found in Northern Virginia, health department officials said.
The Virginia Department of Health and the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) announced that the first case of the B.1.1.7 variant was identified in a sample from a resident of Northern Virginia with no reported recent travel history.
“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said. “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."
VDH did not specify where in Northern Virginia the patient lives.
DCLS said they have informed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the variant case. The B.1.1.7 variant was first discovered in the United Kingdom in late 2020 and is more infectious, according to leading health experts.
In the United States, nearly 200 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been detected in 23 states as of Jan. 22, 2021. While scientists are working to better understand its impact on vaccine efficacy, early data suggests currently authorized vaccines are effective against the new variant.
VDH said they are continuing to work with communities across the Commonwealth to slow the spread of all strains of COVID-19 through widespread adherence to preventive measures, supporting testing and vaccination efforts, and conducting investigations of cases and outbreaks.
"As our state public health officials closely monitor the emergence of the B.1.1.7 variant in our Commonwealth, it is important that all Virginians continue following mitigation measures," Oliver said.
For more information about COVID-19 variants, visit the VDH COVID-19 Testing website and the CDC New COVID-19 Variants website. For more information on DCLS and its use of next-generation sequencing, visit dgs.virginia.gov/dcls.