By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — The state’s health department confirmed eight additional COVID cases that are part of the variant first found in the United Kingdom.

Officials with the Chicago Department (CDPH) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said the first case of the B117 COVID variant was identified in Chicago on January 15, for a total of nine cases that have now been reported in the state.

READ MORE: First Case Of Brazil Variant Of COVID-19 Confirmed In Illinois

Those with the B117 variant range in age from 12 to 63 years and live in Cook County, including Chicago.

“With reports of this variant already in many states in the U.S., we anticipated its spread here in Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “Early studies have found that this variant spreads more easily than what we have seen with the current prevailing variant.  We are following closely to see if there is evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease or death.  Based on the information available now, the vaccine will still be effective.  Continued masking and vaccination when it is your turn remain our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible.”

CDPH’s Dr. Allison Arwady added that more cases will be confirmed in the future and the best way to stay safe is to adhere to the restrictions in place, including the frequent washing of hands to to continue to socially distance.

READ MORE: Feds Seize 65,000 Counterfeit N95 Masks At O'Hare International Airport

“We expected to see more cases of this variant crop up, and people should know that the best way to protect themselves is continue wearing a mask, washing hands often, staying six feet away from others and getting vaccinated when it is your turn,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D.  “CDPH is working closely with the CDC and IDPH to contribute to national SARS-CoV-2 strain surveillance, and building regional capacity and coordination for this more advanced, specialized molecular laboratory public health work is a top priority.”

Along with the B117 variant, another one (1.351) was confirmed in South Africa, and another, P.1 in Brazil.

COVID-19 vaccine information and data can be found on the IDPH website at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccine-faq.

MORE NEWS: Third Stimulus Check: Will Your Next Relief Payment Be $1,400?

Also From CBS Chicago:

CBS 2 Chicago Staff