(NewsNation Now) — First it was Colorado. Then California. And now Florida.
A new variant of COVID-19, named B117, was found in the United Kingdom last month and has made its way to the United States.
The latest case was discovered in Martin County, Florida. Health officials say a man in his 20s with no history of travel was infected.
Researchers believe it is more contagious and spreading faster than what has been discovered in the U.S.
“It is hard to put an exact number on it, but when you look at modeling studies people say it may be between twenty to fifty percent more contagious. But you have to take all of those numbers with a grain of salt because they are based on modeling,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, John Hopkins University.
Dr. Adalja says regular COVID-19 tests will not detect if a positive case is from the new variant of the virus; that takes additional testing.
He says scientists are sampling 3,500 of the regular tests per week and re-testing them for the variant to see how prevalent it is in different parts of the country.
“It almost certainly is in other places throughout the United States. These cases had no travel history which tells you there is a chain of transmission in the United States I suspect we will find new variant cases all over the country…I think for the general population there is nothing to panic about,” said Adalja. “It does give you a reason to double your efforts to try and prevent yourself from getting exposed to this virus because this new variant does likely transmit more efficiently.”
While the new variant is not more deadly from a disease perspective, Dr. Adalja says if more people are infected, more people will die.
The good news is scientists say the COVID-19 vaccines should be effective against the new variant.
They say the most important thing you can do is wear a mask, practice social distancing, and get vaccinated.
Another COVID-19 variant was discovered in South Africa that is different from the U.K. variant. Health officials there say it is responsible for a resurgence in cases and it is also believe to be more contagious.