CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — Illinois public health officials on Thursday announced that a case of coronavirus variant B.1.351 – first identified in South Africa – has been found in Illinois.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the case was found in Rock Island resident.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Mainly Clear And Not As Cold Sunday Night
Illinois is also reporting 22 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom.
“We expected to see more cases of variants detected in Illinois, including the B.1.351 strain,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a news release. “These variants seem to spread more rapidly, which can lead to more cases of COVID-19 and even another surge. Our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible remains wearing our masks and getting vaccinated when it’s our turn.”
The B.1.351 variant has been of particular concern for scientists – both with regard to the possibility of reinfection and effects on vaccine efficacy.
In South Africa, a vaccine study found new infections with the variant in 2 percent of people who previously had an earlier version of the virus.READ MORE: At Least 20 Shot, 2 Killed In Weekend Violence In Chicago
Meanwhile, the IDPH noted that studies so far suggest antibodies generated by the current COVID-19 vaccines recognize the new variants – including B.1.351 – and offer some protection.
But one specific vaccine – developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University – was shown at a trial to provide only “minimal” protection against mild to moderate COVID-19 infections from B.1.351. That finding was enough for South Africa to suspend the start of its AstraZeneca inoculation program.
In addition to B.1.351 and B.1.1.7, the P.1 variant is causing concern after emerging in Brazil.
The IDPH has increased its surveillance for the variants using genomic sequence testing on more specimens.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Wednesday, Rush University Medical Center has taken a lead on studying the variants. The hospital was awarded a $3.5 million contract to create the Regional Innovative Public Health Laboratory, or RIPHL.MORE NEWS: Boy, 11, Shot And Wounded In West Pullman; He Is Second Child Shot In Area Within Week
Among the major topics the lab is investigating is virus variants and whether they turn out to be to blame for future outbreaks.