DHHR, WVU and Marshall track UK coronavirus variant

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The UK variant of the coronavirus has been identified in the city of Morgantown. Statewide Czar Dr. Clay Marsh two of the three people who have tested positive did have ties to the WVU campus.

“At least two of these individuals have a connection with the university, but have not been on the main campus,” Dr. Marsh said during the daily briefing Monday.

Mutations, or variants occur when the virus makes the transformation to preserve its own life. Variants of the coronavirus have been reported from Brazil and South Africa as well.

By the end of 2020, officials in the United Kingdom noticed an increase in daily infections and quickly identified the variant referred to as B117. The government also quickly enacted increased restrictions to limit spread.

“The UK variant is very contagious and just like the other states we’re an uptick,” Dr. Ayne Amjad, West Virginia state health officer said,” We do want to remain cautious and vigilant.”

The three UK variant cases in Morgantown are being investigated and contact tracing is being conducted.

“We want to make sure this virus stays as limited as possible,” Dr. Marsh said,” And if it’s limited within a small cohort then that can be controlled.”

In West Virginia, a team of researchers from WVU and Marshall University have begun the process of whole genome sequencing. Whole genome sequencing is compared to weather forecasting… It cannot predict what will happen, but will give strong indications of what is possible.

“Having this capability now in West Virginia will facilitate and allow us to track very closely any new outbreaks to see if the variant virus is responsible,” Dr. Marsh said.

State officials urge residents to wear a mask, be socially distant and make good choices when traveling or going out in public.

“People should not be scared of this, this is just part of the unfolding of this virus,” Dr. Marsh said,” But, we have the capabilities to track this, and that’s important and we’re actively tracking it now.”