DHS, laboratory partners identify COVID-19 variant in Wisconsin

Coronavirus

(WFRV) – A variant strain of COVID-19 has been identified in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and laboratory partners.

According to a release, in Wisconsin, the strain was 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. 

“Mutations among viruses are very common. It’s not unusual – in fact, it’s expected. As time goes on in the pandemic and the virus continues to replicate on a large scale, the genetic sequence of the virus will change,” says Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard. 

The particular variant, referred to as B.1.1.7, was first discovered circulating widely in England during Nov. and Dec. of 2020.

Based on epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers believe that this new strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain.

However, there is no evidence that the new strain causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. 

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