DC health says UK, South African COVID-19 strains detected

DC health says UK, South African COVID-19 strains detected
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Two separate variants of the coronavirus, first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, have been detected in three Washington, D.C., residents, the city health department said Thursday.

Director of D.C. Health LaQuandra Nesbitt noted that not every positive test has been sequenced, only a sample, so there are likely more cases of the variants present.

"This is not surprising to D.C. Health," Nesbitt said, noting that cases have been detected in Maryland and Virginia in recent weeks.

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Nesbitt said additional details are not yet known, including whether the people infected have been informed that they have the variant. 

The two variants are more contagious, but experts have expressed confidence that available vaccines will be effective at least against B-117, the variant first found in the U.K. 

The strain first found in South Africa could be more problematic, as drugmakers may need to develop booster shots or revamp current vaccination formulas. 

The B-117 strain is projected to be the dominant one in the U.S. by March and has been found in a majority of states.

Experts have said it's not clear what will happen with the South African strain, but it is also likely circulating in more areas than it has currently been found.

Nesbitt said the presence of the new variants should be a sign to residents about why it's still "critically important" to wear a mask, continue safe physical distancing and avoid large gatherings.