LANSING — The first case of new a highly contagious COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7. has been identified in a woman living in Washtenaw County by the state health authority on Saturday.
The woman recently traveled to the U.K., where this variant originated, according to the MDHHS. Close contacts of this individual have been identified and are in quarantine. At this time two new cases have been identified from close contacts with the person, but it is not known if they are infected with the variant.
B.1.1.7. is believed to be more contagious, but there has been no indication that it affects the clinical outcomes or disease severity compared to the virus strain that has been circulating across the U.S. for months.
Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.
Based on available evidence, current tests and vaccines for COVID-19 also work against this new variant.
However, a higher rate of transmission could increase the number of people who need to be hospitalized or who lose their lives to COVID-19 should the new variant begin circulating widely in Michigan.
To date, the virus has been identified in at least 16 other states and jurisdictions in the U.S. This is the only known case in Michigan at this time, however it is possible that there are more that have not been identified.
“The discovery of this variant in Michigan is concerning, but not unexpected,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the MDHHS. “We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible.
“We continue to urge Michiganders to follow a research-based approach by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn.”