2nd case of COVID-19 variant identified in Wisconsin, DHS reports

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A second case of a COVID-19 variant has been found in Wisconsin, according to the state Department of Health Services on Tuesday, Feb. 9. 

DHS says laboratory partners identified a second case of variant strain B.1.1.7 of SARS-CoV-2, on Feb. 6. 

A DHS news release says this variant, referred to as B.1.1.7, was first discovered to be circulating widely in England during November and December of 2020. The first case of variant strain B 1.1.7 in Wisconsin was detected on January 12, 2021. Based on epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers believe that this new strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. There is some evidence emerging that the new strain may cause an increased risk of death.

“It is concerning that we have identified a second case of a variant that spreads more easily. We are able to sequence a small proportion of tests collected which means in reality, there are likely many more cases of this variant in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer in the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases. “Wisconsinites must continue to be vigilant to stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, staying home, washing their hands, and getting vaccinated when they are able.”

In Wisconsin, both cases of B.1.1.7 were identified through ongoing surveillance and whole genome sequencing, a routine practice since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, change through mutation, and new variants of the virus are expected to occur over time.

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