New COVID-19 variant found in Wisconsin, spreads easier

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:51 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - A new variant strain of the Covid-19 virus is now identified here in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The new strain of Covid-19 is called B-117 and Wisconsin is now one of about a dozen states in the U.S. to have this Covid variant identified.

The big concern is it spreads from person to person much more quickly.

“Our state lab of hygiene is constantly monitoring the situation with the Covid virus and the mutations of the Covid virus,” Marathon County Health Department Public Information Officer Judy Burrows said.

Burrows said since the new strain of Covid-19 can spread easier, it’s possible more people could become ill.

“It doesn’t appear that people with this variant become sicker, but it is easily spread from one person to another,” Burrows said.

She said the mutation from Covid-19 was long expected.

“It’s common for viruses to mutate and change over time and it was expected that this would happen with the Covid-19 virus,” Burrows said.

As for a vaccine, the Chief Medical Officer for Wisconsin said the current vaccine should be effective with the new mutation.

“Studies in test tubes to see how well the antibodies that the vaccine is used to simulate, bind and neutralize the virus, so far that work which is still in the process hasn’t given any reason to be concerned that the vaccines won’t be effective,” Dr. Ryan Westergaard said.

B-117 was first discovered in the United Kingdom in November and since it’s now in Wisconsin, it’s key to follow Covid safety precautions more than ever.

“We have some lessons learned, I think that as individuals many of us have learned to wash our hands the right way. Social distancing, making sure we’re trying to keep that six feet apart, that we’re wearing our masks, if we’re sick, stay home from work,” Aspirus Wausau Hospital Infection Prevention Manager Robin Novak said.

Westergaard said while this case is the only variant they know of in Wisconsin, he wouldn’t be surprised if there are more B-117 cases here than they realize.

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