Three cases of the British COVID-19 variant have been found in New Castle County among a single household with no known travel exposure, the Delaware Division of Public Health announced Friday.
This variant — SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 — was first discovered in England in December and commonly referred to as the UK Variant. It’s one of the reasons the country instituted more stringent shutdowns.
It’s believed to be a more infectious form of the virus, but not necessarily more deadly.
“While we understand that people may be concerned, it’s important to know that while preliminary data suggests this variant may spread more easily and quickly than SARS-CoV-2, it is not clear if it may cause more severe illness than the more common coronavirus. It is not entirely surprising news that it is now in Delaware as this variant has appeared in neighboring states over the last month,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of Public Health in a press release.
“As this new variant is more contagious, it is even more important that we remain vigilant and continue taking the necessary steps to avoid spreading the virus – wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid gatherings,” she said.
Delaware is now now joins a list of 26 other states reporting cases of the UK variant.
The cases involved two adults ranging in age from 35-64, as well as a child under the age of 10, who all tested positive earlier this month. All three individuals had mild symptoms.
The cases were identified through routine surveillance of test specimens performed by the Division of Public Health Laboratory.
The individuals may have been exposed while attending a family gathering with people who live in states where the variant has been identified.
People at the gathering did not consistently wear face coverings or social distance from one another for long periods of time. Case investigation and contact tracing to identify, inform and monitor anyone who was in close contact with these individuals is ongoing.
Public Health also has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as it continues to tracks COVID-19 variants around the country.
Virus mutation is common. This new variant was identified in the United Kingdom in mid-December 2020. As public health experts continue to study this new variant, they expect that all currently available diagnostic tests will detect the variant, and that the current COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, will remain effective against it as well.
Preliminary data suggests the UK variant, as well as Brazilian and South African variants, may spread more easily and quickly which could lead to increased cases.
On Thursday, the CDC announced the first case of the South African variant in the U.S. has been identified in South Carolina.
According to a White House press briefing Wednesday, Minnesota has the country’s first case of the Brazilian variant.