FRANKLIN COUNTY, Maine — The Maine CDC has confirmed a case of the COVID-19 variant in Maine. The B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, was detected in a Franklin County resident who has recently traveled internationally, the Maine CDC said.
This is the first case of the variant in Maine; 932 cases of the variant have been detected in 34 other U.S. states.
The Maine CDC explains that the individual recently tested positive for COVID-19 and a sample was sent to an independent laboratory as part of Maine CDC’s process to identify potential COVID-19 variants. The Maine CDC was notified of the results Wednesday morning.
The Maine CDC said in a release that the individual and other household members who tested positive for COVID-19 are isolating. Maine CDC’s case investigation is ongoing, and close contacts are being identified and will be required to quarantine.
Maine CDC is in communication with the U.S. CDC about this case as it continues to track COVID-19 variants across states.
“We recognize the concern this case may cause, given that the B.1.1.7 variant appears to spread more easily,” Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah said in a release. “Given the number of cases already detected in other states, we expected the variant to arrive in Maine and have been on the lookout for it. It is more important than ever that Maine people remain vigilant in taking the steps that prevent the spread of COVID-19 – wearing face coverings, staying at least 6 feet apart, avoiding gatherings, and washing hands frequently.”
The Maine CDC says testing for the B.1.1.7 variant and other variants has been ongoing in Maine in collaboration with clinical diagnostic laboratories, including The Jackson Laboratory and the U.S. CDC. Testing consists of conducting genomic sequencing on a portion of COVID-19 positive test samples in Maine.
Public health experts expect that existing COVID-19 diagnostic tests will continue to detect variants of the virus. Scientific evidence suggests that currently available vaccines are effective against the B.1.1.7 variant. Given the increased transmissibility of this variant and the number of states and other countries that have found cases, more cases may be identified in Maine, the Maine CDC said.
"Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist," the U.S. CDC explains.
According to the U.S. CDC, this variant is a more highly transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2. It was first detected in the U.S. at the end of Dec. 2020.
In addition to the UK variant, there are two other variants circulating globally: one that was originally detected in South Africa in Oct. 2020, B. 1.351, and another found in Brazil, P.1.
The U.S. CDC says so far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.
For more information about the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.S. CDC, click here.