The South African variant of the coronavirus has already been documented across the region. So it’s no real surprise that the Virginia Department of Health announced today that it had identified its first case in Northern Virginia. The more contagious strain was found from a local resident with no travel history during the exposure period.
The South African variant—B.1.351—was first detected in October of last year, and only 53 cases have been reported in the US across 15 states plus DC. (So far, there’s been one case identified in DC, 9 in Maryland, and three elsewhere in Virginia, according to the CDC.) While it may spread more easily, public health officials say there’s no evidence it leads to more severe disease.
A UK variant has also been making its rounds across the region, with more than 90 cases documented across DC, Maryland, and Virginia. B.1.1.7, as it’s called, is also known to spread more easily. UK experts have warned that it could be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other virus variants, but more research is needed, the CDC says.
“We are in a race to stop the spread of these new variants. The more people that become infected, the greater that chance the virus will mutate and a variant will arise that could undermine the current vaccination efforts,” the Virginia Department of Health says in a statement.