A new strain of the coronavirus, known to be more contagious and which has caused mass shutdowns in the United Kingdom, has been detected in Wisconsin for the first time.
The state Department of Health Services said in a news release the new strain was found through routine sequencing of the coronavirus genome. The department did not indicate how prevalent the new strain may be in Wisconsin.
“As time goes on in the pandemic and the virus continues to replicate on a large scale, the genetic sequence of the virus will change,” said DHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard. “It’s not unusual – in fact, it’s expected.”
There is no evidence the new strain is more deadly or causes more severe illness, according to DHS. The department said however, “researchers believe that this new strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain.”
“We already know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets, and with this new variant appearing to be even more infectious, taking preventative measures like wearing a mask and physically distancing are even more important,” said health secretary Andrea Palm.
DHS said it will continue to monitor emerging mutations of COVID-19 as the pandemic progresses.