Officials in Virginia said a lab has identified the state’s first known case of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus.
The case was identified in an adult who lives in Northern Virginia who had not recently traveled, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Health on Monday.
The new coronavirus strain is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 and was first reported in the U.K. late last year.
“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver in a news release. “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.”
Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services confirmed the case using what’s known as next-generation sequencing that provides a genetic blueprint of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been alerted to the Virginia case.
Though it’s more contagious, the U.K. strain doesn’t appear to have a significant impact on the efficacy of the two approved coronavirus vaccines, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
So far, nearly 200 cases of the mutant strain have been identified in 23 states.
Earlier this month, Maryland reported its first two cases of the strain, a couple in Anne Arundel County, including one partner that had recently traveled.
On Twitter, Gov. Ralph Northam addressed the announcement of the new strain, calling it “not unexpected,” and saying it “should be a reminder to all Virginians that now more than ever, we need to be vigilant about following public health and safety measures.”
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