MIAMI (WSVN) - The Florida Department of Health has confirmed that a Martin County man has been infected with the highly contagious United Kingdom variant of COVID-19.
In a tweet sent out Thursday night, the health department said the man, said to be in his 20s, had no prior travel history.
Florida has evidence of the first identified case of the UK COVID-19 variant in Martin County. 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.
— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) January 1, 2021
Health officials said they are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate this case of COVID-19.
“At this time, experts anticipate little to no impact on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine,” officials said on Twitter.
The strain is called the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, and preliminary research shows it can be between 10 and 70 percent more contagious.
Dr. Michael Farzan, of the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, said the strain is likely in South Florida, but there is no need to panic.
“I am almost 100% sure that it is,” Farzan said. “Happily, this virus does not cause more serious disease. We should be doing exactly the same thing, protecting ourselves with masks.”
The B.1.1.7 variant has several mutations that allow the COVID crown protein to more easily enter human cells and more easily replicate once they infect a person.
“Because of these two critical changes, it’s far more contagious,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University.
The variant was discovered in the United Kingdom, and 60% of COVID-19 cases in London are from the B.1.1.7 variant. Epidemiologists believe the variant is more rare in the U.S., but it is likely all across the country.
“Most likely, it’s in many communities in the United States right now,” Marty said. “It’s critical for everyone to realize that every time we let this wild virus spread, every time somebody else catches it, it’s another opportunity for another worse variant to arise.”
7News has reached out to the Florida Department of Health’s offices in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to ask about how they plan to trace the COVID-19 variant, but they have not responded.
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