(WKOW/WREX) — Officials with Wisconsin Department of Health Services say they've identified a variant strain of COVID-19.
The variant, referred to as B.1.1.7, was first discovered in the United Kingdom between November and December last year.
DHS officials say researchers believe that this new strain spreads quicker among populations. There is no evidence that the new strain 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,” DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said.
DHS officials did not say where exactly the new strain was detected, but that is was found through ongoing surveillance whole genome sequencing, a routine practice since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Mutations among viruses are very common. It’s not unusual – in fact, it’s expected. As time goes on in the pandemic and the virus continues to replicate on a large scale, the genetic sequence of the virus will change,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard said.