The B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 has been discovered in Clark County.
Two county residents who recently tested positive for COVID-19 were confirmed to be infected with the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. B.1.1.7 was first spotted in the United Kingdom last year and has proven to be much more transmissible than original novel coronavirus.
Specimens were sent to a lab at the University of Washington. The lab confirmed the variant through whole viral genome sequencing and notified Clark County Public Health of the results this week, according to a Clark County news release.
These are the first two cases of the B.1.1.7 variant identified in Clark County.
“This variant can spread more easily and quickly than others, but the measures we take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are also effective in preventing the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant,” said Clark County health officer Dr. Alan Melnick. “It’s essential that we continue to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing and avoid gatherings.”
One of the two people with the variant had traveled out of the country prior to testing positive for COVID-19, but the cases appear unrelated and the other case did not travel, suggesting the B.1.1.7 variant is circulating in Clark County. Public Health is not providing any additional information about the cases.
The B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in Washington in January. Data collected so far suggests a low prevalence of the B.1.1.7 variant in western Washington. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the B.1.1.7 variant will become the dominant strain in the U.S. within a few months.
While the B.1.1.7 variant does spread more easily than other variants, evidence is lacking that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.
So far, studies suggest COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use are effective against the B.1.1.7 variant.
Everyone should continue to take steps to keep themselves, loved ones and the community healthy by wearing a face covering anytime they are around people you do not live with, including people you see regularly, according to Public Health. Make sure face coverings fit well and have multiple layers.
Also stay at least 6 feet from people you do not live with and avoid social gatherings. If you do gather, keep the group size small and wear face-coverings. Try to gather outside if possible.
Wash your hands with soap and water and stay home if you are sick or in close contact with a sick person or someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Seek testing for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or were in close contact with someone who tested positive.
Learn more about COVID-19 variants on the Washington State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.