A man in his 20s from Colorado has tested positive for a new coronavirus variant, B.1.1.7, recently identified in the UK. The announcement came from health officials and the Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, on Twitter. The office of Polis stated that the man had no travel history and that public health officials are currently conducting a thorough investigation. The man, who resides in Elbert County, is currently isolating.
"We will closely monitor this case," Polis stated. "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," he added.
The US has recorded record numbers of new COVID-19 infections in late December with hospitalizations hitting an all-time high. The country continues to struggle to get a grip on the ever-evolving situation.
Dr Atul Gawande, a member of the President-elect Biden-Harris COVID-19 advisory board, told CNN, "An unknown travel history means that this person picked it up in the community. We know it is a more contagious variant and that's a serious concern if it is only just now beginning to spread, given that our hospitals and ICUs, in particular, are already being filled.”
Although experts in the UK have stressed that the new variant might be more transmissible, there is currently no evidence to suggest that it makes people sicker or leads to increased mortality. The UK variant has now made it to many other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Japan, India, and Canada, with the latest being the US. Travel bans for flights from and to the UK have been imposed by various countries to try and limit the spread.
Viruses are known to frequently mutate and new variants arise as a virus spreads through a population. For COVID-19, the new UK variant is not the only variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is currently raising concerns due to its increased transmissibility.
A different variant, 501.V2, is thought to have originated in South Africa recently and is currently driving the second wave of infections in the country.
Both the UK and the South African variants appear to spread more effectively, which raises the possibility that more people could get infected. This could lead to more hospitalizations, putting a strain on already struggling healthcare systems, hence the serious precautions being taken in many countries and stricter lockdowns being imposed to limit transmission as we head towards the New Year.
2020 started with major concerns, and the end of the year doesn't shy away from its share, but things are looking promising. Various COVID-19 vaccines have now received regulatory approval in many countries and mass vaccinations are already ongoing, providing a little bit of light at the end of a daunting tunnel.