Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and laboratory partners identified on February 6 a second case of variant strain B.1.1.7 of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Wisconsin.
This variant, referred to as B.1.1.7, was first discovered to be circulating widely in England during November and December of 2020. The first case of variant strain B 1.1.7 in Wisconsin was detected on January 12, 2021. Based on epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers believe that the new strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
There is some evidence emerging that the new strain may cause an increased risk of death, the health department said.
“It is concerning that we have identified a second case of a variant that spreads more easily. We are able to sequence a small proportion of tests collected which means in reality, there are likely many more cases of this variant in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer in the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases. “Wisconsinites must continue to be vigilant to stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, staying home, washing their hands, and getting vaccinated when they are able.”