News Flash

Health - Public Health News

Posted on: February 24, 2021

Variant B.1.1.7 Found in Whatcom County

Evidence for a new coronavirus variant previously reported elsewhere in Washington has now been found in Whatcom County. Variant B.1.1.7, commonly referred to as the UK variant, spreads more easily than the original COVID-19 strain. 

While this is cause for concern, it isn’t cause for alarm. The things that work to limit transmission of the original strain will also prevent the spread of this new one. But we should be a little more diligent. 

What does “new variant” mean?

Viruses evolve, just like we do. This new variant is the same COVID-19 virus, but better adapted to thrive in its environment - our bodies. 

There are several new COVID-19 strains across the globe right now. The one identified in Whatcom County, B.1.1.7, has several mutations that allow it to “stick” better to the cells in our bodies. This means that when you inhale particles containing the virus, the new strain is more likely to cause infection than the original strain. If you came into close contact with two people, one of whom was infected with the original strain of COVID-19 and one with this new strain, you would be more likely to catch the new strain. 

Both the original and the new variant can cause severe illness requiring hospitalization. The symptoms for both are the same, which include: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell

If you experience any of these symptoms, isolate yourself in your home and schedule a COVID-19 test. Seek immediate medical attention if the symptoms worsen or you experience any of the following:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

Click here for more information about COVID-19 symptoms

What do we do now?

The good news is you don’t have to do anything new to protect yourself from COVID-19 variants. The same things we’ve been doing to limit the spread of the original strain also prevent transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant. These steps include:

  • Wearing a close-fitting mask or face covering with multiple layers.
  • Keeping 6 feet or more away from people you don’t live with.
  • Washing and sanitizing hands often.
  • Keeping gatherings small, infrequent and well-ventilated.
  • When you can, get vaccinated, and keep practicing the steps above. 

Remember, it’s not one or the other - all of the above must be practiced at the same time. If gathering, keep windows and doors open or do it outside, while wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart. If you and your friends can’t follow all of these safety precautions, then gathering isn’t safe. 

The vaccine is an important tool in our COVID-19 toolbox, and it protects against the original strain and new variants. But its supply is limited now and vaccinating everyone will take time. When it’s your time to get vaccinated, keep your appointment. In the meantime follow all of the steps outlined above to protect yourself and your community from variant B.1.1.7.

Facebook Twitter Email

Other News in Health - Public Health News

Whatcom County COVID-19 Update for 2/25/22

Posted on: February 25, 2022

Whatcom County COVID-19 Update for 2/18/22

Posted on: February 18, 2022

Whatcom County COVID-19 Update for 2/11/22

Posted on: February 11, 2022

Understanding COVID-19 At-Home Tests

Posted on: January 26, 2022

Back to Basics for the Omicron Surge

Posted on: January 11, 2022

The Omicron variant

Posted on: November 29, 2021

How to Stay Safe When You Can’t Stay Dry

Posted on: November 16, 2021

Vaccine supply for 5- to 11-year-olds

Posted on: November 9, 2021

Don’t Forget the Flu

Posted on: November 2, 2021

Tips for Safe Holiday Travels

Posted on: October 19, 2021

Changes to the local data dashboard

Posted on: October 12, 2021

Whatcom County COVID-19 Update for 9/17/21

Posted on: September 17, 2021

Mask guidance in Whatcom County

Posted on: July 29, 2021

Update on the Delta variant

Posted on: July 26, 2021

Tips for Staying Safe on Open Water

Posted on: July 16, 2021

Vaccine Update for 7/7/21

Posted on: July 7, 2021

Top Tips for a Healthy 4th

Posted on: July 2, 2021

I’m fully vaccinated: What now?

Posted on: March 29, 2021

Updated Guidance for Phase 2

Posted on: July 25, 2020

Share Compassion, Not COVID

Posted on: July 18, 2020

Responding to COVID-19 Outbreaks

Posted on: June 9, 2020

Is it safe to gather with friends?

Posted on: May 23, 2020

Got Symptoms? Get Tested!

Posted on: April 30, 2020

What We Know About BA.2

Posted on: March 29, 2022