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First Case Of COVID-19 Variant Confirmed In Massachusetts

BOSTON (CBS) — The first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 was detected in Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health confirmed Sunday. This is the same variant that was discovered in the United Kingdom.

According to the health department, the individual developed symptoms in early January and tested positive for COVID-19. A sample was sent to an out-of-state laboratory as part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) surveillance process for identifying COVID-19 variants.

The individual is a Boston woman in her 20s who traveled to the United Kingdom and felt sick the day after she returned. She had tested negative for COVID before leaving the UK.

Contact tracers initially interviewed the woman when she tested positive and close contacts were identified.

The state was notified of the variant Saturday night. The woman will be re-interviewed by public health officials.

A statement from the Boston Public Health Commission said the woman arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport on January 3 for a two-hour layover. She is now asymptomatic and in another state.

To date, the CDC has reported 88 cases from 14 states in the United States. While there is no evidence this variant is more deadly or causes a more severe illness, the variant spreads the virus more easily and quickly than other variants.

The health department said they anticipated the variant would reach Massachusetts eventually and the same safety regulations are in place.

“I’m not surprised, I think it was inevitable that it’s going to be spreading through the United States,” Brigham and Women’s Hospital Dr. Abraar Karan told WBZ-TV.

He said the COVID vaccine should work against this variant as well. “Preliminary data that we’ve been seeing is that it should be as effective against this, we’re still waiting to hear final confirmation.”

“From a hospital perspective, it’s very concerning because we just do not want to have more surges it real strains healthcare capacity and staff,” Karan said.