UK COVID Strand Found at University of Washington

February 24, 2021

Between Dec. 25 and Jan. 20, 1,035 DNA samples were collected and tested at the University of Washington’s virology lab, two of which tested positive for the B.1.1.7 strain previously identified in the UK in September. 

Chris Spitters, a health officer for the Snohomish Health District says the district had already instituted standard case investigation, isolation, and contact tracing prior to learning about these cases; he adds that containment protocols will not be handled any differently than with standard COVID-19 cases.

In regards to vaccinations, UW medicine states that the current Pfitzer and Moderna vaccines will still be effective against new variants, but encourage taking extra precautions until then such as double masking, maintaining social distancing, and keeping your hands clean. “This new variant is 30%-50% more contagious than the original strain, so wearing masks and physical distancing is even more important,” UW stated.

The University of Washington encourages people to take extra care in following the CDC guidelines while awaiting their vaccinations. “[The] B.1.1.7 variant spreads the same way other coronaviruses spread; it’s just better at it,” UW stated. “Strictly following prevention measures is the best way to slow the spread of all variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Recommended steps to take in order to prevent contracting or spreading the B.1.1.7 variant are maintaining a social distance of up to 6-feet with people not in your household, avoiding crowds or poorly ventilated areas, washing your hands, staying home or away from others if you or someone around you is showing signs of COVID-19, getting vaccinated when you are eligible, and/or wearing a properly fitting mask with multiple layers if available.

The University of Washington states that wearing a facial covering with at least two-layers can block up to 80% of exhaled respiratory particles as well as inhaled and adding a double facemask can provide additional filtration.

The B.1.1.7 variant may sound scary and new for the residents of Snohomish and King county, but by taking the necessary prevention steps and staying vigilant with our health as well as our community’s can make the situation easier to contain and manage.

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