The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services notified the Kent County Health Department the COVID-19 variant known as SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 has been confirmed in a Kent County resident.
The variant is concerning because it is associated with increased transmissibility. Compared to the original virus, the B.1.1.7 variant is approximately 50% more transmissible, leading to faster spread of the virus and potentially increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) said the presence of the quickly spreading variant in Kent County illustrates the importance of staying vigilant in the prevention of spreading COVID-19. Proper mask usage, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene continue to be the most effective measures in combating the spread of the disease.
The KCHD also encourages residents to limit their interactions with people who live outside of their own households.
“Fundamentally, this is a race for the coverage of our population; a race that pits vaccination efforts against the transmission of infections,” said Dr. Adam London, KCHD director. “While we work to minimize the impact of COVID-19 infections, the B.1.1.7 variant is giving the virus increased velocity.”
The KCHD encourages testing of individuals who have traveled out of Michigan in the last 14 days, especially to areas in which the new variants are widely circulating.
The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant is thought to have emerged in the United Kingdom and has since been detected in many countries and states.
The MDHHS has identified 30 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Michigan, most of which have been found in the southeast portion of the state.