MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services confirmed Wednesday that another variant of the coronavirus was detected in Wisconsin.
The variant strain, referred to as B.1.617.2, is believed to have originated in India and was first detected there in October 2020. Wisconsin DHS said in a statement that the B.1.617.2 variant is responsible for the recent rise of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.
DHS will start reporting numbers on the variant on Thursday. This is the sixth variant of concern in the state that the health department is reporting. Those other variants include: B.1.1.7, B.1.351, B.1.427/B.1.429 and P.1.
As of Wednesday, DHS has identified 26 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant in Wisconsin since April 2021.
"Wisconsin continues to report an increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases across the state that are variants of concern,” said DHS secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “We urge Wisconsinites to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting vaccinated. The sooner people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the less opportunity for the virus to keep mutating.”
In a statement, Wisconsin DHS said that this variant is believed to spread more rapidly and easily than the original coronavirus strain. However, it is not clear if the B.1.617.2 variant has a different level of severity and intensity than other strains.
Officials said that research has shown antibody treatments and the vaccine are less effective against this strain of the virus. However, health officials said vaccines do provide some protection against it.
The DHS said all viruses change through mutation. This is not specific to the coronavirus. Wisconsin DHS expects additional variants of the coronavirus to develop over time.
For more information on COVID-19 variants in Wisconsin, click here.