The mutation makes the virus about 56% more transmissible, but not more deadly, English researchers found.
The mutated coronavirus strain first identified in England has officially reached Wisconsin, the state Department of Health Services announced Wednesday morning.
The new virus variant, first found in England in late September, is much more contagious than the original strain. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Centre for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases believe the mutations make the virus about 56% more transmissible than the standard strain, but there is currently no evidence the variant is more deadly.
“We already know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets, and with this new variant appearing to be even more infectious, taking preventative measures like wearing a mask and physically distancing are even more important,” DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a statement.
Preliminary evidence suggests COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against the new strain.
There were 72 confirmed cases of the UK variant in the United States as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That does not include the newly confirmed case in Wisconsin; the mutation was previously confirmed in Minnesota, Colorado, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.
“Mutations among viruses are very common, ” Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for DHS, said in a statement. “It’s not unusual—in fact, it’s expected. As time goes on in the pandemic and the virus continues to replicate on a large scale, the genetic sequence of the virus will change.”
DHS said in a press release that it identified the new strain through routine genome sequence through laboratory tests. The department called it “critically important” to follow COVID-19 safety protocols as new variants emerge.