Colorado officials on Tuesday have reported the first case in the United States of a person infected with the coronavirus variant circulating in the United Kingdom. Many scientists believe that the variant, due to multiple mutations, can spread more easily.
As per a tweet from the office of Gov. Jared Polis, the patient infected with the variant is a man in his 20s. He is currently being isolated in Elbert County. The man also has no travel history reported, and officials have not identified contacts so far. The tweet also said that health officials in Colorado continue to work and do contact tracing to find other potential cases.
Today we discovered Colorado’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the UK.
The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely. pic.twitter.com/fjyq7QhzBi
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) December 29, 2020
At least 17 countries, apart from the UK, have already identified cases of the mutation-laded virus recorded. It includes countries as far away as South Korea in Asia and Australia. Two cases in Canada have also been identified, according to officials from the said country.
Most of the cases worldwide involve people who traveled from the UK. However, no signs of a rapid spread have been detected in these other countries, including the US.
Coronavirus Variant Doesn’t Cause More Severe Sickness
According to scientists from Public Health England, while this variant of the coronavirus has the potential to spread more easily, it does not make people sicker or more at risk of dying. They also said that no evidence that people who already had COVID-19 will become infected again if exposed to the new variant. They also believe that recently-developed and approved vaccines still work well against the new coronavirus variant.
“Preliminary evidence suggests that the new variant does not cause more severe disease or increased mortality,” Dr. Susan Hopkins, an epidemiologist from Public Health England.
Newly released data also back up the findings of scientists in the UK.
William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said: “The good news is that B117 does not seem to cause much more severe disease, and there’s no evidence that it is managing to evade the immune system, which means vaccines are expected to protect against it … The bad news is that B117 does appear to be much more transmissible.”
U.S. Health Officials Not Surprised
A case of the new coronavirus variant in the US is not surprising. Many health officials believe that cases in the country already exist.
According to the CDC, as of Dec. 22, viruses from only about 51,000 cases had been sequenced from about 17 million U.S. cases.
“Ongoing travel between the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the high prevalence of this variant among current UK infections, increase the likelihood of importation,” the CDC said.
After the first US case was reported on Tuesday, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he did not feel surprised.
He said: “I think we have to keep an eye on it, and we have to take it seriously. We obviously take any kind of mutation that might have a functional significance seriously. But I don’t think we know enough about it to make any definitive statements, except to follow it carefully and study it carefully.”