By Staff Writer
A contagious new strain of the coronavirus that has spread in the United Kingdom has been detected in a man in Florida.
“Florida has evidence of the first identified case of the UK COVID-19 variant in Martin County,” the department said in a Twitter post. “The individual is a male in his 20s with no history of travel. The Department is working with the CDC on this investigation. We encourage all to continue practicing COVID-19 mitigation.”
Finding variants is key to stopping new clusters, but the US is doing only a fraction of the genetic sequencing needed, says James Lu, President of Helix, a company helping to track the presence of this new strain.
“We’re probably under-sampling, so we’re likely to be having some circulation of that within the community itself.”
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Aileen Marty says the new variant is believed to be 50 percent more contagious and there is a growing concern – because it spreads faster.
“If you think about the reality of this variant is that it has 14 mutations. Of those 14 mutations, 3 are particularly bad because they alter how the spike in the protein works and how it is shaped,” she adds.
“So, first, it latches on better than it gets into our cells easier. And another change is that it is allowing it to replicate faster inside our cells. Which means each person that gets this has a lot more virus to share with others. And the virus they share is more likely to get into your cells and spread damage.”
Health experts are predicting an explosion in covid cases – partly due to new year’s gatherings and people traveling over the holidays.
“It is very important that people realize that when we let a wild virus spread not only are you increasing the risk of individuals, but you are also facilitating the creation of more variants.”