Illinois keeping an eye on new COVID strain

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Administrative worker Sander Edmondson, left, hands a COVID-19 testing kit to a woman at a testing site in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Hospitals in central and Southern California are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients and state officials are poised to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders there as conditions worsen before the post-holiday surge hits. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Illinois Department of Public Health says it is increasing its surveillance for a new COVID variant by performing genomic sequence testing on an increased number of specimens that have been collected.

The variant was first identified in the United Kingdom and cases have been reported in two states in the US.

No cases caused by this new variant have been confirmed in Illinois yet.

“Viruses are constantly changing through mutation and variant virus are expected,” said Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “At this time, we have no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease or death.  However, early study shows the variant may spread more easily and quickly.  We will continue to work with academic partners, laboratory researchers, physicians, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor for cases.” 

Public health experts are working to better understand the potential impact of this variant, including how the variant spreads and how it affects people who are infected.

The IDHP says virus mutation is common and right now, they believe the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine has not changed.

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