State health officials are calling for increased vigilance after the recent confirmation of the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351 in a resident of Southwest Virginia.
“We are in a race to stop the spread of these new variants, and it’s time to double down on personal precautions,” said Noelle Bissell, M.D., health director, New River Health District. “It is critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures. The more people that become infected, the greater that chance the virus will mutate, and a variant will arise that could undermine all our vaccination efforts.”
Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants. These include wearing masks correctly, practicing physical distancing, avoiding crowds and prolonged close contact, washing hands often, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is your turn, and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
In addition to this case of the B.1.351 variant, two other cases of the B.1.351 variant and 12 cases of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant were identified in Virginia as of Feb. 18. As COVID-19 surveillance continues, additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will likely be identified.
The B.1.351 variant is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. Currently, there is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease. To date, the B.1.351 variant has been identified in nine other U.S. states.
The confirmation of the B.1.351 variant is in an adult resident of Southwest Virginia who recently returned to Virginia after international travel. All contacts of the case have been identified and appropriately managed. No other information on this person or the circumstances of the exposure will be provided.
For information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/. For information on COVID-19 testing in Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/.