Testing and lab sequencing detects first case of variant strain in Alaska

    Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced today that an Anchorage resident who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection last month was infected with a variant strain of the virus known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in September in the United Kingdom.

    This is the first identification in Alaska of the B.1.1.7 strain, or any of the variant strains that are raising concerns among public health officials.

    The person who tested positive in Anchorage had recently visited a state where the variant has already been detected.

    After returning home, the person first experienced symptoms on Dec. 17, was swabbed on Dec. 20, and received a result on Dec. 22.

    The individual isolated after being notified of the positive result, according to contact tracers.

    The individual lived with one other person who also became sick, tested positive and was successfully isolated.

    Both individuals have since recovered.

    The variant sample was first screened by the Alaska State Virology Laboratory in Fairbanks on the same day of test collection, Dec. 20, and was found to be missing the spike gene, indicating it was a possible variant.

    The sample was part of a group of over 300 specimens with spike gene target failures that have been sequenced over the past three weeks to examine viral genomes for variants, a process that normally takes about a week to analyze roughly 100 genomes.

    The lab’s initial analysis determined the sample was the B.1.1.7 variant.

    This finding was then confirmed by a University of Alaska Fairbanks laboratory.

    The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services notified the Center Disease Control Monday that the variant had been found in Alaska, albeit an imported case.

    The Center Disease Control has warned that this variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by late spring and has the potential to drive further increases in infections in coming months.

     

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