South African COVID-19 variant found in Rock Island County

(Rock Island County, IL) -- A variant of the coronavirus that the Illinois Department of Public Health said seems to spread more rapidly has been found in Rock Island County.

IDPH said it is the first case of COVID-19 variant B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa, reported in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the variant in a Rock Island resident.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, there is no evidence at this time to suggest infections by this variant cause more severe disease. Like the UK and Brazilian variants, preliminary data suggests this variant may spread more easily and quickly than other variants.

Illinois is currently reporting 22 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom. “We expected to see more cases of variants detected in Illinois, including the B.1.351 strain,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “Our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible remains wearing our masks and getting vaccinated when it’s our turn.”

“Having this new variant in our community underscores the need to take personal precautions to prevent further spread. Please continue to wear your mask when away from home, watch your distance when around others and wash your hands frequently,” Rock Island County Health Department Administrator Nita Ludwig said.

Cases of the B.1.351 were first reported in the U.S. at the end of January. So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through the current COVID-19 vaccines recognize these variants and may offer some protection. Additional studies are underway.

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