Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on January 17 announced that the first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 has been detected in Massachusetts, coming from a Boston woman who had travelled to the United Kingdom.
This is the same variant initially discovered in the United Kingdom.
The individual developed symptoms in early January and tested positive for COVID-19. A genetic sample was sent to an out-of-state laboratory as part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) established surveillance process to identify COVID-19 variants. The State Public Health Laboratory was notified last evening of the results.
The individual is a Boston resident, a female in her 20s. She had traveled to the United Kingdom and became ill the day after she returned. She had tested negative prior to leaving the UK. The individual was interviewed by contact tracers at the time the initial positive result was received, and close contacts were identified. She is being re-interviewed by public health officials now that the variant has been identified as the cause of illness.
Surveillance testing for the B.1.1.7 variant has been ongoing at the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory in collaboration with clinical diagnostic laboratories and academic partners. Surveillance consists of genomic sequencing on portions of COVID-19 positive specimens.
To date, the CDC has reported 88 cases from 14 states in the United States.
Given the increased transmissibility of this variant and the number of states and other countries that have found infected cases, the Department expected the variant to arrive in Massachusetts eventually. The public health risk-reduction measures remain the same. Individuals must continue to wear masks or face coverings while out in public, maintain 6-foot social distancing, stay home when you are sick, and get tested if you have symptoms or are identified as a close contact.