Illinois health officials have confirmed eight additional cases of a COVID-19 variant that spreads more rapidly than previous strains of the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to nine.
The virus, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is known as variant B.1.1.7. It has been shown in laboratory studies to spread more quickly than previous iterations of the virus, and has been located in several states, sparking fears of a new wave of the virus.
“Early studies have found that this variant spreads more easily than what we have seen with the current prevailing variant,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement.
According to Ezike, studies are still underway to determine whether the new variant cause more severe disease or death, but doctors believe that COVID-19 vaccinations will still be effective against it.
“Continued masking and vaccination when it is your turn remain our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible,” she said.
The first case of the virus was reported in Chicago on Jan. 15. The cases reported thus far in the state have been reported in individuals ranging in age from 12 to 63, and were collected between Dec. 29 and Jan. 15, according to officials.
The emergence of the new variant was expected by health officials, who reminded the public that viruses constantly change. Variants of the virus have now been reported in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
The Brazillian variant, known as P.1., was just reported for the first time in the United States after an individual who had traveled from Brazil to Minnesota tested positive for the virus.