UK COVID-19 variant discovered in Dane County

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 3:19 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 10:25 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The COVID-19 variant initially found to be circulating in England was discovered in Dane County on Thursday, Public Health Madison and Dane County confirmed Thursday.

PHMDC noted that the person who tested positive for the variant has had no recent travel history outside of Dane County.

Researchers believe this strain of the virus can spread more easily and rapidly than the original strain.

“When variant becomes particularly dominant in the virus that’s circulating, or if it’s more transmissible like B.1.1.7 is thought to be, that’s when it becomes a variant of concern,” Katarina Grande, Dane County Public Health Covid data team lead said.

Director of PHMDC Janel Heinrich explained that they had been expecting to eventually find the variant strain, coined B.1.1.7, since it has been reported in other areas of the state over the past month.

“While this is the first time sequencing has confirmed the strain here, we’ve been operating under the assumption that the variant is present, and that is why we continue to stress that people not let their guard down,” Heinrich said.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi noted that this finding is a reminder that residents should continue to take precautions when it comes to the virus.

“The finish line we have all so looked forward to is within sight,” Parisi said. “We have made progress in recent weeks. While we are all exhausted and frustrated by the difficult winter months of this pandemic, by continuing to do our part we can help prevent this emerging strain of Covid from catching hold here.”

The variant was first discovered in Wisconsin in January. The Dept. of Health Services reported that it was found in Eau Claire.

Public health officials are also monitoring another mutation known as the South African variant. This variant has not yet been identified in Wisconsin.

Officials said this mutation is a bit more concerning because studies show it could be effective in defeating vaccines.

“What we need to do is modify the vaccines to specifically target the variant that is causing trouble and the good news there is the ability to modify the vaccines is a little bit easier,” Dr. Jeff Pothoff, UW-Health’s chief quality officer said.

Health officials said it’s very likely the public will need a yearly covid booster shot to protect against the predominant variant.

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