A new strain of Covid-19, B.1.1.7, has surfaced in San Diego County. The new strain, first identified in the U.K., has been recognized in five U.S. states and 33 countries.
The first case within San Diego County, reported on December 29, was a 30-year-old man who had no recent travel history. Since then, the cases have rapidly increased. County health officials confirmed 24 cases with the new variants and an additional four remain under investigation. No deaths have been reported regarding the new strain. As of now, one woman has been hospitalized.
“Because the variants spread more rapidly, they could lead to more cases and put even more strain on our heavily burdened health care systems,” Dr. Henry Walke, incident manager for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 response, said in an interview with USA Today. “We need to be even more vigilant in our prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Mutations within this strain of COVID-19 are becoming an urgent concern for the public. Researchers have been discussing the new strain’s ability to bind more effectively with surface cells on the human body due to several mutations. Data has shown that B.1.1.7 is more transmissible.
“The fact that these cases have been identified in multiple parts of the region shows that this strain of the virus could be rapidly spreading,” Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer, said. “People should be extra cautious to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19, especially this variant, which research has shown is more contagious.”
The new strain has been found in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
“The new strain is estimated to represent about 1% of all infections (in the U.S.) at this moment but because of its increased contagiousness, the best estimates are that it will become a majority of all new infections by March,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, wrote in a blog post.
Similar to COVID-19, cases have shown the strain B.1.1.7, threatens younger individuals as well; however, people with medical conditions or of older age are encouraged to remain vigilant. According to the CDC, there is no evidence the new strain increases the severity of illness or risk of death.
Researchers strongly believe the COVID-19 vaccine will be effective against this new strain, but more data is needed to confirm. The public is still encouraged to practice the specified safety precautions in order to avoid further spread and illness.