Second case of new COVID-19 variant found in Wisconsin

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    A second Wisconsin resident has tested positive for a rapidly spreading new strain of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19, state health officials said Tuesday. The case was found in Waukesha County.

    The variant, identified as B.1.1.7 of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is believed to spread more easily, and may cause an increased risk of death, according to the state Department of Health Services (DHS).

    The case was found through genetic analysis of COVID-19 test samples. Labs are able to  conduct genome sequencing on only a small number of the tests they process to identify variants — “which means, in reality, there are likely many more cases of this variant in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer in the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

    More variations are likely to emerge in the coming year, making that sort of surveillance of test samples increasingly important, DHS said in a statement announcing the identification of the new case. 

    As new strains spread, that could lead to a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, according to the agency, which emphasized that public health measures remain “critically important”: wearing masks, staying home, washing hands and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.