State health officials in Colorado announced on Tuesday that the new variant of COVID-19 has surfaced in a rural county there, the first known case in the U.S.
Colorado’s state lab confirmed the presence of the new strain in Elbert County after a man in his 20s tested positive for what’s being called the B.1.1.7 variant. The patient, who has no history of traveling, will remain in isolation until he’s medically cleared, state officials said.
Officials say there are likely more cases out there undetected, and they are working on contact tracing.
According to the World Health Organization, the new variant originated in southeast England, and health officials in England say it likely emerged in September, circulating in low levels until mid-November.
Scientists advising England say the variant could be 70% more effective at spreading, but there is no evidence it poses a higher risk of hospital admission or death. Preliminary evidence suggests the new strain results in a person holding a higher viral load, which means the virus is easier to pass on, and may also infect more children.
U.S. officials think the new vaccines would be effective against the new strain but there is a small chance the efficacy could be affected. Pfizer and Moderna are testing now to double-check their vaccines, and both have shown to be effective against other variants of the virus.