The first case of a COVID-19 variant that originated in the United Kingdom has been identified in an infected McHenry County resident, officials said on Thursday.
The McHenry County Department of Health said that the infected person does not have a history of international travel. A case investigation is ongoing.
The B.1.1.7 variant was first identified in the United Kingdom and has already been reported in other northern Illinois counties, including Cook, DuPage, Lake and Lee.
There have been 94 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant detected in Illinois to date.
“We announced our first COVID-19 positive case in March of last year, and we are again announcing something that is new and will require additional research to fully understand this strain of the virus,” said Susan Karras, the McHenry County Department of Health Nursing Director.
“However, it is not uncommon for viruses to mutate. In the case of this particular variant, it is known to spread more easily,” Karras said.
“This reinforces the need to continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance, even if you’ve received a vaccine,” she added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experts in the United Kingdom reported in January that the U.K. variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm their finding.
Early indications are that the COVID-19 vaccine offers protection against the B.1.1.7 variant but vaccine efficacy against this new variant is preliminary and evolving.
Anyone who is considered a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should follow quarantine recommendations and seek testing, the health department said.
Anyone who tests positive for the virus should isolate in their home and from others in their household, follow recommendations from their primary care provider and answer the phone when the MCDH case investigator and contact tracer contact them.