A new report from the Department of Health analyzed specimens taken from confirmed COVID-19 cases to determine the variants prevalent in Washington state.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A new report from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) shows certain variants of the coronavirus are appearing more frequently in the state.

Laboratories around the state helped the Department of Health perform next generation sequencing on specimens taken from confirmed COVID-19 cases to determine the virus’ “genomic fingerprint,” or the set of mutations that make that virus unique. 

According to the report, published April 8, coronavirus variants originating from California and the United Kingdom have appeared most frequently in specimens collected and sequenced between December 2020 and March 2021.

As of April 7, the California B.1.429 variant has appeared in specimens the most frequently and accounted for 870 cases between November 2020 and March 2021, the report said. The UK variant B.1.1.7 is the second most prevalent in the state accounting for 321 cases between January 2021 and March 2021. 

Since the start of the pandemic, King County has had the most specimens sequenced from COVID-19 cases. 

The state is not sequencing samples from every confirmed COVID-19 cases at this time, but during the month of February, the Department of Health said 9.5% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases were sequenced. Additionally, since January 2020, 3.3% of specimens from COVID-19 cases in Washington have been sequenced, the report said. 

Washington state currently conducts sequencing on between 5-10% of positive specimens, which ranks among the best in the nation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report said. 

Since January, the Department of Health has been working on a plan to increase sequencing capacity in Washington to get a better understanding of the variants and estimate their prevalence, the report said.  

Sequencing can be performed on stored patient specimens at any time, so the numbers may change as more specimens are sequenced.

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