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Case of variant COVID-19 strain reported in Alaska

Alaska scientists are on the lookout for a new mutated strain of COVID-19 that appears to be...
Alaska scientists are on the lookout for a new mutated strain of COVID-19 that appears to be more contagious.(Storyblocks)
Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 2:29 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A variant strain of SARS-CoV-2, originally discovered in the United Kingdom in September, has been detected in Alaska.

An Anchorage patient who tested positive for COVID-19 in December was infected with the variant strain, the Department of Health and Social Services said Tuesday. This is the first identification of the strain in the state, which is known as the B.1.1.7 strain.

As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported 293 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain in the United States on its website.

“We’re not surprised this variant has been detected in Alaska,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink in a prepared statement. “We’ve been sequencing the viral genome from a subset of positive test samples to detect the presence of variants as quickly as possible.”

State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin says that the B.1.1.7 strain has been carefully tracked and appears to be one of the various strains of the virus that spreads easily and quickly. He said that it is not surprising that COVID-19 has a variant, as viruses are constantly mutating.

The state says the patient who was infected with the new strain was visiting one of the states that had already reported cases of it. The patient self-isolated after receiving their positive results of COVID-19; the individual they lived with also became sick and self-isolated as well. Both have since recovered.

The patient was originally tested on Dec. 20; that day, the Alaska State Virology Laboratory in Fairbanks screened the sample and recognized a spike gene to be missing, making it a potential variant. The lab later determined it was the B.1.1.7 strain, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks laboratory later confirmed. DHSS then notified the CDC Monday.

The CDC says that the B.1.1.7 variant has the potential to increase infections in the upcoming months and could even become the dominant strain of the virus by late spring.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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