B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant identified in eight Alabama residents (ADPH Press Release)

Karen Landers, M.D., (256) 383-1231

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is partnering with several private and commercial laboratories in the state to expand its ability to identify COVID-19 strains that are known to be more transmissible and may sabotage current progress of reducing cases in the state. 

To date, eight variant strain cases of the highly transmissible COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant have been identified in Alabama residents, but only a couple of the cases had out-of-state travel prior to illness onset which indicates this variant strain is already circulating in Alabama. Cases were identified in residents of Autauga, Jefferson, Madison, Mobile and Montgomery counties. The cases that have been identified correspond with the counties where a small portion of laboratories is collecting specimens for sequencing, so there is much yet to be determined about the variant’s spread. The variant was first identified in the United Kingdom. 

At this time, many infectious disease experts and the CDC have indicated that the current vaccines should be effective against the strain. However, this is still being studied. Currently, the B.1.1.7 variant has not been definitively linked to worse outcomes of the disease. 

As this variant is recent to the United States, it is important to follow the outcome of persons infected with this variant. If a patient presents with recent taste or smell disorder, or clearly presents with COVID-19 illness, and tests negative for SARS-CoV-2, providers are asked to collect a specimen as soon as possible for submission to the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories or a laboratory that performs sequencing.

ADPH advises the public to continue practicing the usual mitigation standards with emphasis on correct and consistent use of face masks of washable, breathable fabric such as cotton, practice social distancing, and wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

For general information about COVID-19, visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/index.htmlor call the COVID-19 Information Hotline number at 1-800-270-7268.