COVID-19 variant 1st found in UK now detected in Wisconsin

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Wednesday, Jan. 13, identified a variant strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Wisconsin.

“It’s the same infection, it’s the same risk, it’s the same likelihood of illness," Dr. Ryan Westergaard said. He is the Wisconsin Department of Health Services chief medical doctor.

Westergaard says they are working to learn how these new variants spread.

“It has this different genetic code, it’s distinct," Westergaard said. 

Doctors say this particular strain is believed to spread more rapidly but researchers say it is not believed to be any more dangerous than the COVID strain already discovered.

“We already know when there is a case of COVID in a household, other members of that household are highly likely to get it. This increases that risk even more," Dr Nasia Safdar said. She is the medical doctor of prevention at UW-Health.

Dr. Safdar says most viruses will transform overtime. This causes a new variant of the virus.

She says although it’s new, the symptoms are the same.

“It does not appear to cause more severe disease or cause people to feel sicker than any other strain of COVID."

Dr. Westergaard says the current vaccines can fight the new strain.

“That’s the good news, as things stand now, we haven’t observed anything that would make us concerned that vaccines are not effective against this new strain.”

That’s why health experts stress the importance of vaccinations.

“Whenever people become eligible for the vaccine and it’s offered to them, they should take it," Dr. Safdar said.

In a release, DHS said the new strain was identified "through ongoing surveillance and whole genome sequencing."

The routine analysis of genetic sequence data helped identify the new strain.

Doctors say as they work to learn more about this new strain, people must continue to wear masks, wash hands and practice social distancing.

Read more from DHS HERE

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