Colorado has confirmed the first known U.S. case of a new coronavirus strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom.
“Today we discovered Colorado’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the U.K.,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. “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.”
The Colorado state laboratory confirmed the case and notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the governor’s office said in a statement. The patient is a man in his 20s who is recovering in isolation. He has no travel history and no close contacts. Public health officials were conducting an investigation.
Here’s what scientists know:The new variant of coronavirus is spreading fast in the UK
Scientists in the United Kingdom believe the variant strain to be more contagious than previously identified strains but not more severe. According to models, it has an increased transmission rate of 70% compared with other variants in the U.K. Authorized vaccines are thought to be effective against the variant.
It was first spotted in September in southeastern England. The new variant accounted for a quarter of cases in London by November. By the week of Dec. 9, it was responsible for 60% of cases in the city. Currently, the cases are concentrated in London and eastern England.
The Colorado lab identified the variant through analysis of testing samples, initially spotting a tell-tale sign of the variant in a PCR test. Scientists then sequenced the viral genome and found eight mutations specific to the spike protein gene associated with this variant, according to the governor’s office.
The CDC said last week that the strain could already be in the country without detection. As of Dec. 22, viruses had only been sequenced from about 51,000 of 17 million U.S. cases, the agency said.
“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.