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Highly contagious COVID variant detected in Massachusetts; Health officials say Boston woman became ill after – MassLive.com

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Sunday that the state has seen its first case of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.

The person who tested positive for this COVID variant is a Boston woman in her 20s, officials said.

“The individual developed symptoms in early January and tested positive for COVID-19,” according DPH. “A genetic sample was sent to an out-of-state laboratory as part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) established surveillance process to identify COVID-19 variants. The State Public Health Laboratory was notified last evening of the results.”

The woman had travelled to the United Kingdom and became ill the day after she returned. She had tested negative prior to leaving the UK.

“The individual was interviewed by contact tracers at the time the initial positive result was received, and close contacts were identified,” officials said. “She is being re-interviewed by public health officials now that the variant has been identified as the cause of illness.”

Surveillance testing for the B.1.1.7 variant has been ongoing at the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory in collaboration with clinical diagnostic laboratories and academic partners. Surveillance consists of genomic sequencing on portions of COVID-19 positive specimens.

As of Sunday, there have been 88 reported cases from 14 states in the United States.

“Given the increased transmissibility of this variant and the number of states and other countries that have found infected cases, the Department expected the variant to arrive in Massachusetts eventually,” DPH said. “The public health risk reduction measures remain the same. Individuals must continue to wear masks or face coverings while out in public, maintain 6-foot social distancing, stay home when you are sick, and get tested if you have symptoms or are identified as a close contact.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Sunday, said public health officials are taking mutations of COVID-19 “very seriously,” including the highly contagious strain that’s spread across 50 countries and become the dominant source of infection in the United Kingdom as well as “more ominous” strains in Brazil and South Africa.

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