COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced today the detection of one case associated with the SARS-CoV-2 variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom.
Viruses are constantly changing, and the new versions are called variants. Variants are closely monitored for their ability to spread faster or cause more disease. South Carolina public health officials were notified late Friday by MAKO Medical Laboratory of a South Carolina sample that was determined to be the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
Experts agree that existing vaccines work to protect individuals from this variant, even if it’s not clear yet how effective they are. At this time, there’s no conclusive evidence to prove that the B.1.1.7 variant causes more severe illness.
“The arrival of the second SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is a yet another important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC interim public health director. “While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, supplies are still very limited. We must all remain dedicated to the fight by doing the right things to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
The case, an adult from the Pee Dee region, has an international travel history. To protect their privacy, no further information will be released.
The B.1.1.7 variant has been identified in many countries and in 30 states with 434 total cases having been reported in the US as of 7 p.m. Friday. Earlier this week, DHEC announced that two cases of a variant first discovered in South Africa had been reported in South Carolina. Both variants first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa spread easier and quicker than most SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The three significant variants being spread in the world currently, originally from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, emerged independently from each other and have different characteristics. Most variants do not change how the virus behaves and many disappear.
“We know that viruses mutate to live and live to mutate,” Dr. Traxler said. “That’s why it’s critical that we vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible and each of us do our part by wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, avoiding crowds, washing our hands, getting tested often, and when it’s our time, getting vaccinated. Science tells us that these actions work to prevent the spread of the virus, no matter the strain.”
DHEC, in coordination with the CDC, will continue to watch out for COVID-19 variants. Public health officials will provide more information as it becomes available.