Canada

B.C. identifies new variant of COVID-19 – B.1.525 – associated with travel to Nigeria

VANCOUVER —
British Columbia health officials say they’ve identified another COVID-19 variant in the province through testing.

Speaking at a news conference in Vancouver Friday, B.C.’s top doctor said a recent case has been confirmed to be a variant associated with travel to Nigeria.

This variant, labelled B.1.525, is new to the province, and the case is the first to have been confirmed in Canada.

It’s the third variant known to be in B.C.

“We aren’t entirely clear yet whether this variant also has increased transmissibility or causes more severe illness, but our lab team is working with their counterparts across the country and internationally to get a better understanding of what this can mean,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

She did call it a “variant under investigation,” rather than a “variant of concern,” and said the case is in a young person who lives in B.C.’s Interior Health region.

Henry said the person is isolating after travelling to Nigeria, and that health officials aren’t aware of any transmission.

She announced this new-to-the-province variant after explaining that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has been working with provincial labs to conduct what she called “ongoing surveillance.”

The purpose of this surveillance is to help health officials understand how many people have these variants, she said.

Every positive case confirmed between Jan. 30 and Feb. 5 has been screened with a “marker” to determine whether the case is a variant, according to Henry.

“Of 3,099 positive cases that were screened there were three that were confirmed by whole genome sequencing to be variants of concern,” she said.

One of those three was the B.1.351 variant, sometimes referred to as the South African variant. The other two were B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the U.K.

So far in the province, there are known to have been 46 variant cases in the province – 29 of B.1.1.7 and 17 of B.1.351 – though it appears the Nigeria-associated case may bring the total to 47.

As for how the variants are reaching Canada, Henry said all but one of the B.1.1.7 cases were directly tied to travel: people who had recently travelled or been in contact with a traveller, or from contact with a cluster that began with a travel-related case.

With the cases of the South African variant, some are travel-related but the majority are part of a cluster that is being investigated.

“We’ve not seen ongoing transmission once we’ve identified the case,” Henry said.

But, she said, there are a handful of cases in which the source is unclear.


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