A sign in front of UW’s medical research facilities in South Lake Union on December 10, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey / Getty Images)
The Washington State Department of Health, along with the Snohomish Health District and UW Medicine’s Virology Laboratory, discovered the first cases of variant B.1.1.7 of COVID-19 – first discovered in the UK – when testing samples from the state.
“We thought this version of concern was here and now we know it is here. It was a huge team effort by UW Medicine’s Virology Laboratory and required the development of several new rapid tests to detect and confirm it, “said Dr. Alex Greninger, an assistant at UW Medicine’s Clinical Virology Laboratory.
These are the first variants of B.1.1.7 found in the condition, but other cases are likely to exist.
“The Snohomish Health District had already begun standard case investigation, isolation and contact tracing before learning of these cases,” said Dr. Chris Speakers, a Snohomish Health District health official. “The restriction protocols do not differ in the variants of B.1.1.7 than in all other cases of COVID-19. A follow-up investigation is underway to learn more about these cases and those who have tested positive for this strain. “
Option B.1.1.7 was first launched worldwide in September 2020. It is spreading more easily and quickly than other options.
“Although finding option B.1.1.7 is troubling, we knew it was only a matter of time before we found evidence of it here in Washington. However, the health and safety of all Washington residents remains our top priority, “said Health Minister Umayr A. Shah. “Now that this option has been found, he emphasizes the absolute importance of doubling all prevention measures to protect the people of Washington against COVID-19.”
This is an evolving story.