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U.K. variant of COVID-19 detected in Johnson County


Little Village

A variant of COVID-19 that spreads more easily than the strain that has already infected more than 319,000 Iowans has been detected in the state, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced Monday. The department said three cases of COVID-19 caused by the B117 variant — also known as the U.K. variant, since it was first detected in the United Kingdom in September — had been confirmed.

Two of the three cases were in Johnson County, and the third was in Bremer County. The first U.S. case of B117 was reported in Colorado on Dec. 29. As of last week, the CDC said cases had been confirmed in 26 states.

Some studies estimate the variant is 50 percent more contagious than the strain of the virus typical in the United States. Although the number of B117 cases are still low nationwide, the CDC warned in a Jan. 15 report that it could be the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. before the end of March. Widespread vaccination, however, could help mitigate its spread.

“Current COVID-19 vaccines are considered effective against the variant strain,” IDPH said in a statement announcing B117 had been confirmed in the state.

Iowa expanded its COVID-19 vaccination program on Monday to cover approximately 20 percent of the state’s population, but vaccines remain in limited supply in the state.

According to the data posted on the IDPH COVID-19 information site as of 2 p.m. on Monday, a total of 134,292 Iowa have received one of two needed doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and 60,902 have received both doses.

The B117 variant does not appear to be more lethal or produce more severe illness than the more common strain of COVID-19, but public health officials worry that it could lead to a new spike in infections that could overwhelm healthcare systems.

“The increased transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 variant warrants rigorous implementation of public health strategies to reduce transmission and lessen the potential impact of B.1.1.7, buying critical time to increase vaccination coverage,” the authors of the Jan. 15 CDC report concluded.


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