A new strain of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Wisconsin. The state Department of Health Services said Wednesday that the variant, first discovered in the U.K. in November, is now confirmed in at least one patient sample here in Wisconsin.
Whole genome sequencing is needed to identify the variant, known as B117, which recently sent the U.K. into strict lockdown. DHS is working with the State Laboratory of Hygiene at UW-Madison and other labs to ensure that sequencing is performed on some collected COVID-19 tests.
While the new strain is more easily transmissible, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.
“We already know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets, and with this new variant appearing to be even more infectious, taking preventative measures like wearing a mask and physically distancing are even more important,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.
Wisconsin’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ryan Westergaard said last week that we already know what to do, to lesson the risk of contracting the new strain.
“The good news is that there’s no new tools no new strategy. We already know everything we need to know to slow this virus. We just need to do it more and better, frankly.”
Westergaard said that means mask wearing, avoiding indoor gatherings and hand washing.
DHS did not indicate how many patient samples had the new strain, or in what part of the state.