First case of South African COVID variant identified in Washington

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Frank Augstein

KING CO., Wash. — The first case of the South African COVID-19 variant has been identified in Washington.

The case was identified in King County on Monday and the patient first tested positive for COVID-19 on January 29.

At the same time, a virology lab found evidence of 19 additional cases of another variant strain, first detected in the United Kingdom. That brings that total of known cases of that variant to 39. Currently, there are no confirmed cases of a variant that originated in brazil.

“The finding underscores the importance of genomic surveillance by sequencing, which allows us to identify variants currently circulating in the population,” said Dr. Pavitra Roychoudhury, acting instructor, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“The detection of these COVID-19 variants in our state reminds us that this pandemic is not over. Despite the decrease in our case count, we are very concerned about the emergence of these variants and how it will affect future case counts. As a community, we need to re-double our efforts to prevent the spread of this virus and its variants by following public health guidance,” said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist.

The B.1.351 variant was first identified in South Africa in December and has been found found in 10 U.S. states. At this point, public health officials do not know if it is known to cause more severe disease and it is not clear whether it spreads more rapidly than other strains.

The strain can reduce the effectiveness of some vaccines, but vaccines still provide strong protection against illness and death.

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