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DOH monitors COVID mutations

Weekly SARS-CoV-2 sequencing will help understand transmission


Last updated 3/4/2021 at 7:40pm

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The Washington State Department of Health is set to publish a weekly report studying mutations of COVID-19.

The SARS-CoV-2 sequencing and variant report will summarize genome sequencing coverage of Washington. Data will be drawn from multiple laboratories across the US and Washington state. Sequencing capacity and data will become available by county and will be split out by demographics. Comparing the sequences of viruses allows for better understanding of viral transmission and new strains, also called variants. On Feb. 22, the DOH announced the second variant to COVID-19 to reveal itself in Washington State. The first variant, announced in January, traveled from London to Snohomish County in four months. It is considered more infectious than the original strain of COVID-19 and it is not yet determined whether either one of the new variants is more dangerous.

The first instance of B.1.1.7 variant was detected in Washington state in late January and since then, local virology labs have found evidence of 39 in Washington state.

B.1 351 variant, the second mutation discovered in Washington state, was identified through genomic sequencing at the UW Medicine Virology Laboratory and announced Feb. 23. It was first found in South Africa.

The report monitoring COVID-19 variants will post to the DOH dashboard and will be updated every Thursday.

"Sequencing SARS-CoV-2 cases provides critical information to help inform the public health response to the ongoing pandemic. By combining sequencing data with data from case and contact investigations, we can better detect outbreaks, identify and track new and emerging variants, and determine the effectiveness of public health control measures," said DOH epidemiologist Hanna Oltean.

Washington State reports on the CDC variants of concern including the B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom; B.1.351 that originated in South Africa; and P.1., originally detected in Brazil.

DOH will add new variants of concern to the report as they are added to the CDC website.


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