Today, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has confirmed three cases of the COVID-19 variant, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7. in Iowa. The virus variant is often referred to as the U.K. variant because it was first detected in the United Kingdom. Based on epidemiologic and modeling data, researchers believe that the B.1.1.7 strain can be spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. Current COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be effective against the variant strain.
Two of the three B.1.1.7 cases were detected in Johnson County, an adult (18 to 40) and a middle aged adult (41 to 60) and an adult individual in Bremer County. IDPH and local public health have already initiated contact with these cases to understand their exposures and initiate the health monitoring process. The process will include notifying anyone with whom these individuals have been in close contact. The individuals will be advised to isolate in accordance with IDPH and CDC guidance.
The positive cases were identified by the State Hygienic Lab (SHL). SHL has been participating in the CDC’s SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance Program by sending COVID-19 test samples to be sequenced for the B.1.1.7 variant since early December. SHL recently began doing their own internal sequencing to look specifically for the variant. Routine analysis of genetic sequence data assisted in identifying the new variant strain in Iowa.
“Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic. Public health will continue to work with our partners at SHL to monitor these trends and it is very important that we all keep practicing good public health protective measures,” shared Dr. Caitlin Pedati, State Medical Director and Epidemiologist.
The emergence of new variants underscores that it remains critical for Iowans to continue the mitigation efforts that we know work to slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Wear a mask or face covering
- Practice social distancing with those outside your household
- Clean your hands frequently with soap and water
- Stay home if you feel sick
- Get tested if you are exposed to, or have symptoms of COVID-19
- Consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you
Updates to Iowa’s B.1.1.7 cases will be shared on the CDC’s website here. These case counts only represent the variant strains that are confirmed through genomic sequencing, and may not accurately reflect the true number of variant cases.