WISCONSIN— Another variant of COVID-19 was identified in Wisconsin, according to a press release issued on Friday by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The strain, referred to as B.1.351, was first discovered in South Africa in Oct. 2020, according to the press release. This is a different variant than the coronavirus strain that was identified in Wisconsin on Jan. 12, 2021. That strain, B.1.1.7, was first seen in the U.K.
Officials said that the B.1.351 spreads easier and faster than the original strain of COVID-19. Officials said they do not know if the new variant impacts the severity of symptoms.
However, officials did say they believe all three coronavirus vaccines will "effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all of the circulating variants."
"It is important to remember that new variants are expected to occur over time. Here in Wisconsin, whole-genome sequencing of positive specimens from COVID-19 cases is done on a regular basis," said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. "Because these variants may spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2,mask-wearing, staying home, physically distancing, and washing your hands continues to be crucial."
Wisconsin DHS said in the press release that all viruses change through mutation. This is not specific to the coronavirus.
As of March 5, 26 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been identified in Wisconsin. Only one case of B.1.351 has been identified.