Public health officials confirm first case of COVID-19 variant in Illinois

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(The Center Square) – Public health officials on Friday confirmed the COVID-19 variant first reported in the United Kingdom has been found in Illinois.

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine identified the first case in Illinois of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom in December, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Public Health announced Friday.

The strain was first found in the U.S. in Colorado and has since been found in 12 other states. Preliminary evidence suggests the variant can spread more easily than other strains of COVID-19.

“This news isn’t surprising and doesn’t change our guidance around COVID-19. We must double down on the recommended safety strategies we know help stop the spread of this virus,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. 

Public health officials said they are monitoring the strain.

“When we learned of this and other COVID-19 variants, we increased our surveillance efforts by performing genomic sequence testing on an increased number of specimens,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We will continue to collaborate with our academic partners, local health departments like CDPH, hospitals, and the CDC to monitor for additional cases.”

CDPH found the person who contracted the variant had traveled to the United Kingdom and the Middle East.

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