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South African COVID variant identified in Wisconsin
covid-19 graphic coronavirus
DHS and Laboratory Partners Identify a Second Variant Strain 
of SARS-CoV-2 in Wisconsin 

On March 4,the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and laboratory partners identified a second variant strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Wisconsin.This variant strain differs from variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in Wisconsin on January 12, 2021.

The newest variant, referred to as B.1.351, was first discovered to be circulating in South Africa in samples dating back to October 2020. According to epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers have found that this new strain, similar to B.1.1.7, spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. It is not yet known if this variant has any impact on disease severity. There is some evidence to suggest that this variant may affect how some antibodies respond to the virus. Preliminary evidence suggests that the Moderna vaccine may be less effective against this variant, but studies are ongoing.

In Wisconsin, strain B.1.351 was identified through ongoing surveillance and whole genome sequencing, a routine practice since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, change through mutation. We can expect additional new variants of the virus to occur over time.