VDH: First case of B.1.351 COVID-19 variant identified in eastern Virginia

VDH: First case of B.1.351 COVID-19 variant identified in eastern Virginia
For the third straight day, Virginia health authorities are reporting a drop in the state’s number of new coronavirus cases. (Source: Associated Press)

RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - The Virginia Department of Health says the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of eastern Virginia.

The department made the announced Friday, February 5. VDH says it is currently investigating this case and assessing the person’s travel history.

The B.1.351 variant first emerged in South Africa in late 2020 and is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus. VDH says there is no evidence at this time that infections with this variant cause more severe disease.

To date, the B.1.351 variant has been identified in only two other U.S. states, South Carolina and Maryland.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with state public health, academic, and commercial laboratories to increase surveillance capacity to sequence thousands of specimens every week. CDC notified Virginia of the case that was identified through these efforts at a commercial laboratory.

In addition to this case of the B.1.351 variant, four cases of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant have now been identified in Virginia.

Viruses change all the time, and VDH expects to see new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as disease spreads.

Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants: wearing masks correctly, staying at least 6 feet from others, avoiding crowds, washing hands often, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is your turn, and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

For more information about COVID-19 variants, visit the Virginia Department of Health 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.

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