COVID-19 variant detected in Nevada

COVID Variant graphic.
COVID Variant graphic.(WLUC/CDC)
Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 11:49 AM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The first known case of the new B.1.1.7 coronavirus strain has been detected in Nevada.

The Nevada State Public Health Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine announced detection of the COVID-19 variant Monday, January 25, 2021.

The new strain was detected in a sample that was initially tested in the Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory, officials said. It was found in a specimen from a symptomatic woman in her 30s from Las Vegas.

According to the laboratory, the specimen was collected during routine community collection activities and tested by SNPHL to determine if it was positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. During testing, it was discovered the specimen was showing characteristics of the variant. It was then sent to NSPHL for sequencing and confirmation.

The NSPHL sequenced the specimen on Thursday, Jan. 21 and analyzed the data that detected the new strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Nevada on Friday, Jan. 22.

The B.1.1.7 strain first emerged in the U.K. in fall 2020 and has become highly prevalent in certain geographical regions according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since December 2020, several other countries, Canada and the United States among them, have reported cases of the virus variant.

Nevada State Public Health Laboratory Director Mark Pandori, Ph.D. said this strain is more contagious, but it is not yet known whether the variant causes a more severe illness than the reference COVID-19 strain.

“It is copying itself a lot right now, which can lead to mutating,” says Pandori. “The more a virus spreads in a community, the more opportunities it has to make mistakes when it copies itself. This leads to what we see here and it’s a very natural part of viral evolution.”

The Nevada State Public Health Laboratory is currently working on surveilling as many positive COVID-19 cases as it can for the new B.1.1.7 strain. This surveillance will continue on a daily basis throughout the pandemic.

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