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UK variant of COVID-19 virus discovered in Oregon

Written by on January 16, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Health Authority has been notified today that a person in Oregon, identified as a Multnomah County resident, has tested positive with the variant COVID-19 virus strain originally detected in the United Kingdom.

This is the first identification in Oregon of the United Kingdom variant strain, also called strain B.1.1.7 or SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01. The individual has no known travel history. Health officials are still investigating the possible sources of infection. The strain has been detected in several states, including California.

“The detection of the first case of this variant strain is a concern, and we have been monitoring movement of this strain,” Dean Sidelinger, M.D., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA said. “As we learn more about this case and the individual who tested positive for this strain, OHA continues to promote effective public health measures, including wearing masks, maintaining six feet of physical distance, staying home, washing your hands, and avoiding gatherings and travel.”

Information about the characteristics of COVID-19 variants is rapidly emerging, for the U.K. strain and another variant first found in South Africa.

Viruses constantly mutate, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic. Most variants do not change how the virus behaves, and many disappear.

Scientists are working to learn more about how easily they might spread, and currently there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death, or affect vaccine effectiveness, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Multnomah County public health staff is working tonight and through the weekend to go back over details with this individual related to their isolation plan, contacts and any possible exposures.

“Confirming this strain locally is distressing,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “Until we have enough vaccine, we must continue using face masks, distancing, and limiting our social interactions.”

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