The South African COVID-19 variant was identified in Wisconsin on Thursday.

MADISON, Wis. —The South African COVID-19 variant was identified in Wisconsin on Thursday.
Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus in Wisconsin
The newest variant, referred to as B.1.351, was first discovered to be circulating in South Africa in samples dating back to October 2020.
Researchers have found that this new strain, spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. It is not yet known if this variant has any impact on disease severity.
The state also reports 26 total cases of the UK variant, which was discovered in Wisconsin on Jan. 12.
“It is important to remember that new variants are expected to occur over time. Here in Wisconsin, whole genome sequencing of positive specimens from COVID-19 cases is done on a regular basis, said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said in a news release. “Because these variants may spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, mask wearing, staying home, physically distancing, and washing your hands continues to be crucial.”
Experts with UW Health said COVID-19 is like any other virus: it wants to spread.
“The virus wants to be able to infect as many people as it can. So it will select these variants that make it more transmissible, so it can get into more people,” said Dr. William Hartman, principle investigator for the UW Health AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial.
Hartman said the variant mutations happen in the spike protein of the cell, which is worrisome, because the spike protein is what COVID-19 vaccines target. It means the variant could make the vaccines less effective.
Hartman said it’s why vaccine companies have been developing boosters and why all of us must remain vigilant.
“It’s highly possible that (COVID-19) is always going to be around. It’ll be under control at some point. We’ll have better control of it, but it is likely to always be around,” Hartman said. “This is a race right now. It’s vaccines versus the variants. If we can vaccinate more people more quickly, you give that virus fewer people for it to infect.”
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