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Second COVID-19 variant detected in Washington state

A sign outside the UW Medicine Research facilities in South Lake Union on Dec. 10, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The Washington State Department of Health, along with Public Health — Seattle & King County and the UW Medicine Virology Lab, announced that the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in King County. This is a variant that originated in South Africa.

COVID vaccine ‘still worth having’ for some protection against variants

The variant was identified Monday through genomic sequencing at the UW Virology Lab. The patient tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 29, 2021. The state DOH says other details about this case, including travel history, are not available as the patient could not be reached for contact tracing.

“COVID-19 is threatening us in new ways, and we need to rise to the challenge,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health — Seattle & King County. “The B.1.17 variant can spread more readily and B.1.351 viruses might reduce vaccine effectiveness. For these reasons we need to continue to do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and push our case rates as low as possible.”

“This means limiting activities outside the home, wearing well-made and well-fitting face masks, avoiding or limiting time indoors with others outside the home and in crowded indoor spaces, improving indoor ventilation, and good hand washing,” Duchin continued.

King County health officer: It’d be ‘reckless’ to not mitigate against COVID variant

The B.1.351 variant has been found in 10 states in the United States, after originally being identified in South Africa in December 2020. It is not known to cause more severe disease at this point, and is not clear if it spreads more readily than other strains.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, does seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Evidence of this strain was found in Washington state in January, and there are now 39 known cases of the B.1.1.7 variant statewide. The P.1 variant that originated in Brazil has not yet been detected in Washington.

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