Eight more cases of a COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom and believed to be more transmissible have been discovered in Illinois in the past 10 days, state health officials told WTTW News.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in samples of COVID-19 positive tests taken outside of Chicago and suburban Cook County for the first time, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The variant was discovered in cases from Cook, Champaign, McLean, Peoria, DeWitt-Piatt, and Vermilion counties, said Arnold, who did not respond to a follow-up question from WTTW News about where each of the eight new cases were discovered and when.
In all, 17 cases of the COVID-19 variant have been discovered in people who live in Illinois since the first case was announced on Jan. 25, state health officials said.
The COVID-19 virus — also known as SARS-CoV-2 — constantly changes through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time, officials said.
State and local health officials have said it is not surprising that the variant has been discovered in Chicago and Illinois, but have urged residents to continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and get vaccinated when possible.
Data suggests current vaccines will be effective and safe in providing protection against the variant, officials said.