Found on March 4, DHS says this variant strain differs from variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in Wisconsin on Jan. 12, 2021.
The newest variant, referred to as B.1.351, was first discovered to be circulating in South Africa in samples dating back to October 2020.
According to epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers have found that this new strain, similar to B.1.1.7, spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
DHS says there is some evidence to suggest that this variant may affect how some antibodies respond to the virus.
Experts expect that all three currently authorized vaccines effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all of the circulating variants.
DHS remind people that all viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, changes through mutation.
“Because these variants may spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, mask wearing, staying home, physically distancing, and washing your hands continues to be crucial,” says DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.
DHs says vaccines are also an important tools to limiting the spread of COVID-19. So far, studies show that the current available vaccines provide protection against new variants.
In Wisconsin, strain B.1.351 was identified through ongoing surveillance and whole genome sequencing, a routine practice since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.