By Spy Uganda
According to the World Health Organization, the United States’ first known case of the new coronavirus variant was discovered in Colorado on Tuesday, state health officials confirmed.
The variant, called B.1.1.7, has been linked to the United Kingdom. The man who was infected is in his 20s, is isolating, and appears to have no travel history,
According to sources, this man had been working at an assisted living facility in Elbert County. Health officials suspect, but have yet to confirm, that another man who worked there also came down with the variant, the county’s public health director said Wednesday.
California Governor, Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that the new variant has been found in the southern part of his state.
Here’s what You need To know about the New COVID-19 variant:
The new variant is believed to have originated from southeast England, according to the World Health Organization.
Public Health England says backward tracing, using genetic evidence, suggests the variant emerged in September. It then circulated at very low levels until mid-November.
But scientists did not know whether the mutation originated in southeast England or was introduced there from elsewhere, said Sharon Peacock, professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Cambridge.
However, some experts have suggested the new variant could have been amplified because of a superspreader event, meaning the current spike in cases could also have been caused by human behavior.
Health authorities from around the world have said the variant does not appear to be more deadly than previously identified coronavirus strains.
Initial analysis showed that while the variant appears to be more transmissible, there is no evidence it is linked to a higher risk of hospital admission or death, according to Public Health England.
Scientists advising the UK government have estimated the variant could be up to 70% more effective at spreading than others. Peter Horby, chair of the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said last week that scientists were confident the new variant is “spreading faster than other virus variants.”
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee, Horby explained that the new variant has “some kind of biological advantage to make it spread faster.” Scientists still don’t have a complete picture as to why, he said, but they are investigating several scenarios.
There is preliminary evidence to suggest the new strain results in a person holding a higher viral load, which means the virus is easier to pass on, Horby said.
Scientist Neil Ferguson, a member of NERVTAG, said the variant may be more infectious for children.
“There is a hint is that (the variant) has a higher propensity to infect children,” he said at a news briefing last week organized by the Science Media Centre, though he cautioned that more data was needed. Severe illness due to Covid-19 is still relatively rare for children.
There are no signs yet that the current vaccine front-runners won’t work against this new variant, experts and drugmakers have said.
The companies behind the first two vaccines to gain authorization in the United States–Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are testing their shots to double-check that they’re effective against the variant. The coronavirus has mutated before, and both firms say their vaccines worked against other variations of the virus.
Researchers have scoured genetic sequences of coronavirus in the United States to see if any match up with the UK variant. So far, they haven’t found any, but they say that’s likely because the US surveillance system isn’t catching them.
Fewer than half of 1% of all US coronavirus cases have been sequenced, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.
The variant has already spread globally. As of December 29, at least 26 countries and Hong Kong have reported cases of the new variant.
Aside from the United States, it has also been detected in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Australia, according to WHO, Canada has also detected the three variant cases in Ontario, with the latest one in Ottawa on Sunday.
A similar but separate variant has been identified in South Africa, where scientists say it is spreading quickly along with coastal areas of the country. British health authorities said two cases of the South African variant have been detected in the United Kingdom. The coronavirus variants discovered in the UK and South Africa are both “more transmissible,” said Susan Hopkins, managing director of Public Health England.
Large swathes of England, including London and the southeast, are now under strict Tier 4 Covid-19 restrictions, and UK government health experts have suggested additional restrictions could be required to beat back this variant.
Dozens of countries across Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas have also announced travel bans for the United Kingdom, or new testing and quarantine requirements for UK arrivals.