Coronavirus testing // MDH 15 (copy)

The B117 coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom has been identified in the Twin Cities metro area, state health officials confirmed Monday.

As of Jan. 11, laboratory sequencing had confirmed five cases in Minnesota located in Carver, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 56 cases have been confirmed in eight states.

Minnesota’s cases were identified among residents aged 15-37 who experienced illness onset between Dec. 16-31, according to state health officials. None of the patients who tested positive for the variant have required hospitalization, and two had traveled internationally before becoming infected.

During a press briefing Monday, state health officials said it’s unlikely the variant is confined to the four counties its been identified in, and case investigations of those who’ve tested positive are ongoing.

The variant is thought to be 50% more contagious than the coronavirus strain that first originated in Wuhan, China, according to the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Researchers believe the variant is more transmissible because those infected carry a higher viral load, but so far there is no evidence the variant causes more severe illness.