COVID-19 B.117 Variant Detected in Kaua‘i Visitor
The Kaua‘i District Health Office announced Monday that another COVID-19 variant has been confirmed on the island.
The B.117 variant, also known as the “UK variant,” was detected in a sample taken from a US mainland visitor who tested positive on the island earlier this month.
The visitor received a negative pre-travel test before traveling from the mainland to Kaua‘i, then tested positive several days after arriving. The visitor’s close contacts were identified, directed to quarantine, and tested. They have completed their 10-day quarantine period and have been released. No additional cases have been detected in the community.
The visitor’s sample was submitted for genomic sequencing to see whether it might be one of the variants of concern identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it was confirmed to be the B.117 variant.
This comes a week after the B 1.429 “California” variant was confirmed in a Kaua‘i household group who became ill as a result of inter-island travel. In that case also, all close contacts completed testing and quarantine and there is no evidence to date of transmission into the community.
The Kaua‘i District Health Office continues to monitor our community for cases and test for variants.
Selected samples from the recent new cases will have genomic sequencing performed at the State Laboratory. This testing for variants takes approximately eight business days, so results will not be available for another 1-2 weeks. In the meantime, all cases are being managed with isolation of cases, quarantine, and testing of all close contacts.
Due to the high transmission rates to household contact members from several of these cases, Kaua‘i health officials expect that at least a few of them are the result of COVID-19 variants.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these variants spread more easily and quickly than earlier strains, which can lead to more cases of COVID-19.
Currently available vaccines provide protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death from these variants. The B117 variant is additionally of concern because it appears to cause more severe illness and more deaths. Kaua‘i health officials say this makes vaccination especially important to provide protection from severe disease.
Dr. Janet Berreman, Kaua‘i District Health Officer said, “The best protection we have is to be vaccinated. Even after being vaccinated, it is essential that we continue to exercise caution: wear masks when around others, avoid large gatherings, keep your distance, and stay home if you are sick.”