More contagious strain of COVID-19 now detected in King County
The new COVID-19 variant strain that has been reported in many states, and in Washington, has now been detected in King County.
On Friday, UW Medicine notified Public Health — Seattle & King County that the B.1.1.7 strain of COVID-19 had been identified in a test sample originating in King County. The B.1.1.7 strain had been found in neighboring Snohomish and Pierce counties last week.
This strain is known to spread more easily than others, and quickly became the dominant strain in the United Kingdom where it was first detected. It’s now predicted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it will be the dominant strain in the United States by March.
While this strain is more contagious, it spreads the same ways as other COVID-19 strains. As health officials have said, that means we just need to be better at countermeasures we know work to limit the spread of the virus, including wearing masking, physical distancing, ensuring good ventilation, and staying home whenever possible.
“This virus has been working out. It’s gotten faster and more fit. And we need to fight smarter and harder to beat it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“We should expect the variant strains to become widespread here, and that will make the outbreak harder for us to control,” Duchin added. “But we have the advantage of early warning to help us prepare.”
Faster spread means more people get infected, leading to more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and more deaths in a shorter period. There’s also concern that a rapid increase in cases could overwhelm the health care system. There is not yet conclusive evidence, however, that this variant causes more severe illness.
The vaccines developed are expected to still be highly effective against this new strain, but it’s still being closely monitored by the scientific community.
“The appearance of the B117 variant in Washington is a wakeup call,” warns the Public Health Insider post about the variant’s arrival in King County. “It’s more important than ever to do all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 – in our homes, workplaces, social lives and wherever we gather – and to push cases down as low as possible BEFORE the B117 strain can spread widely and gain an advantage. This means we need to meet this new challenge by going all in on the steps that we know work, starting now.”