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CHICAGO — The first case of the COVID-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has been confirmed in Illinois, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Public Health announced Friday.

The case was identified by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine “through sequencing analysis of a specimen from bio-banked samples” of positive coronavirus tests. 

The new strain was first identified in the US about two weeks ago in Colorado, and has since been identified in several other states.

Evidence shows this variant can spread more easily than most currently-circulating strains of COVID-19, but there is no evidence that the new strain affects the sensitivity of diagnostic tests or that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.

In addition, data suggest current vaccines will be effective and safe in providing protection against the variant. 

“This news isn’t surprising and doesn’t change our guidance around COVID-19. We must double down on the recommended safety strategies we know help stop the spread of this virus,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “In order to protect Chicago, please continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands often, do not have outside guests in your home, and get vaccinated when it is your turn.”  

Chicago health officials said the person with the variant had traveled to the U.K. and the Middle East in the two weeks prior to being diagnosed.

CDPH, IDPH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with various public health agencies, are closely monitoring this strain.  

Other states affected are Indiana, Texas, New York, California and Florida.

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