Wisconsin confirms 3rd COVID-19 variant strain found in state

State health officials on Friday confirmed a third coronavirus variant has been found in Wisconsin.

According to the Department of Health Services, the variant is referred to as P.1 and is different from the other variants that have also been confirmed in Wisconsin, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351.

According to epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers have found that this new strain, similar to B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. However, P.1 has unique mutations that may affect antibodies’ ability, generated through previous COVID-19 infection or through vaccination, to recognize and fight off the virus.

This means variant P.1 may be able to infect people more easily, stated DHS.

"DHS continues to monitor for new SARS-CoV-2 variants in collaboration with our laboratory partners," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard said. "Because these new variants of concern may spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, it is important to get vaccinated when you are able. Vaccines, along with our other public health practices, give the virus less of an opportunity to spread and mutate."

The DHS urges the public to continue the public health practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the vaccines are one of many important tools to stop the spread. According to the DHS, studies show that the currently available vaccines provide protection against variants, but that is still being closely investigated.

The P.1 variant was first discovered in travelers from Brazil who were tested at an airport near Tokyo in early January, according to the DHS.