First Case Of U.K. Variant Of COVID-19 Confirmed In Massachusetts

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has announced that the first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 has been detected in Massachusetts, the same more contagious variant of coronavirus initially discovered in the United Kingdom.

The DPH said Sunday the infected individual first developed symptoms in early January, and tested positive for COVID-19.

A genetic sample was sent to an out-of-state laboratory as part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s established surveillance process to identify COVID-19 variants, and the State Public Health Laboratory was notified Saturday evening of the results.

The individual is a Boston resident, a female in her 20’s, who had traveled to the United Kingdom and became ill the day after she returned. She had tested negative for COVID-19 prior to leaving the U.K.

The DPH said the woman was interviewed by contact tracers when the initial positive result was received, and her close contacts were identified.

She is currently being re-interviewed by public health officials now that the variant has been identified as the cause of her illness.

According to state health officials, the surveillance testing for the B.1.1.7 variant has been ongoing at the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory in collaboration with clinical diagnostic laboratories and academic partners.

"Surveillance consists of genomic sequencing on portions of COVID-19 positive specimens," the DPH said. "To date, the CDC has reported 88 cases from 14 states in the United States."

Given the increased transmissibility of this variant, and the number of states and other countries that have found infected cases, the Department said it expected the variant to arrive in Massachusetts eventually, and that the public health risk reduction measures remain the same; individuals must continue to wear masks or face coverings while out in public, maintain 6-foot social distancing, stay home when they are sick, and get tested if they have symptoms or are identified as a close contact.

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Written by Brit Smith

(Photo: Getty Images)

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