First case of South Africa variant found in southwest Virginia

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

RICHMOND, Va. — The first case of the more contagious South Africa Covid-19 variant has been found in southwest Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Health said the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351 has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of southwest Virginia who recently returned to the region after international travel. The news release said all contacts of the case have been identified and appropriately managed.

Health officials are not releasing information regarding what part of southwest Virginia the case emerged from.

The B.1.351 variant, which first emerged in South Africa in late 2020, is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of Covid-19.

“At this time, there is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease,” the news release said. “To date, the B.1.351 variant has been identified in nine other U.S. states.”

The news release said the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) confirmed the case using next-generation sequencing that provides a genetic blueprint of the virus that causes Covid-19. In addition to this case of the B.1.351 variant, two other cases of the B.1.351 variant and 12 cases of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant have now been identified in Virginia, the health department statement said.

The health department added it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified in Virginia.

Most people who contract Covid-19 recover, but the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are at the greatest risk for more severe complications from the virus.

In neighboring West Virginia, health officials confirmed another three deaths in Mercer County associated with COVID-19. That brings Mercer County’s pandemic death toll to date to 103.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, of the 12 new virus deaths reported Friday, three were from Mercer County. They are of an 89-year-old woman, a 91-year-old woman and a 92-year-old woman.


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