First case of South Africa COVID-19 variant identified in Virginia

The first case of the South Africa COVID-19 variant – formally known as the B.1.351 variant – has been identified in the Commonwealth, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Health officials announced Thursday that the variant was found in a sample from a resident of Southwest Virginia who recently returned to the state after traveling internationally.

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"The Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) confirmed the case using next-generation sequencing that provides a genetic blueprint of the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition to this case of the B.1.351 variant, two other cases of the B.1.351 variant and 12 cases of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant have now been identified in Virginia, as of Thursday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m. With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified," the VDH said in a statement.

The South Africa variant has been found in nine other states. There is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease, health officials say.