A sign outside the UW medical research facilities at South Lake Union on December 10, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey / Getty Images)
The Washington State Department of Health, along with the Snohomish Health District and the UW Medicine Virology Lab, have found the first cases of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 – detected for the first time in UK – testing state samples.
UW lab has detected two known casess of the variant in specimens collected from two residents of Snohomish County. The lab screened more than a thousand samples between December 25 and January 20 for mutations, and confirmed the variant by sequencing the entire viral genome.
“We thought this worrisome variant was here and now we know it’s here. This was a huge team effort on the part of the UW Medical Virology Lab and required the development of several new rapid tests to detect and confirm it, ”said Dr Alex Greninger, assistant professor at the clinical virology laboratory at UW Medicine.
These are the first B.1.1.7 variants detected in the state, but it is likely that other cases exist.
“Snohomish Health District had already instituted a standard case investigation, isolation and contact tracing before they learned of these cases,” said Dr Chris Spitters, health officer for Snohomish Health District. “Containment protocols are no different for B.1.1.7 variants and for all other COVID-19 cases. A follow-up investigation is underway to learn more about these cases and the people who have tested positive for this strain. “
Variant B.1.1.7 was first detected in the world in September 2020. It spreads more easily and faster than other variants.
“While finding the B.1.1.7 variant is concerning, we knew it was only a matter of time before we found evidence of it here in Washington. That said, the health and safety of all Washingtonians remains our top priority, ”Health Secretary Umair A. Shah said. “Now that this variant has been found, it underscores the absolute importance of doubling all preventive measures to protect Washingtonians from COVID-19.”
This is a developing story.