World update: First reported US case of Covid-19 variant is man with no travel history
The first reported US case of the Covid-19 variant that has been seen in the UK has been discovered in Colorado, Governor Jared Polis announced, adding urgency to efforts to vaccinate Americans.
The variant was found in a man in his 20s who is in isolation southeast of Denver in Elbert County and has no travel history, state health officials said.
Elbert County is a mainly rural area of rolling plains at the far edge of the Denver metro area that includes a portion of Interstate 70, the state’s main east-west road.
Colorado Politics reported there is a second suspected case of the variant in the state, according to Dwayne Smith, director of public health for Elbert County.
Both of the people were working in the Elbert County community of Simla.
Neither of them are residents of that county, expanding the possibility of the variant’s spread throughout the state.
The Colorado State Laboratory confirmed the virus variant, and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was notified.
Scientists in the UK believe the variant is more contagious than previously identified strains.
The vaccines being given now are thought to be effective against the variant, Colorado health officials said in a news release.
For the moment, the variant is likely still rare in the US, but the lack of travel history in the first case means it is spreading, probably seeded by travellers from Britain in November or December, said scientist Trevor Bedford, who studies the spread of Covid-19 at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle.
“Now I’m worried there will be another spring wave due to the variant,” Mr Bedford said.
“It’s a race with the vaccine, but now the virus has just gotten a little bit faster.”
Public health officials are investigating other potential cases and performing contact tracing to determine the spread of the variant throughout the state.
“There is a lot we don’t know about this new Covid-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious.
“The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority, and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all Covid-19 indicators, very closely,” Mr Polis said.
The discovery of the new variant led the CDC to issue new rules on Christmas Day for travellers arriving to the US from the UK, requiring they show proof of a negative Covid-19 test.