DENVER (KDVR) — A variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the United Kingdom has now been discovered in Colorado.
The Colorado State Laboratory said the person is a man in his 20s who is currently in isolation in Elbert County and has no travel history.
“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. We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels,” said Gov. Jared Polis.
The variant, called B.1.1.7, has been widely spread in the UK, and the United States has in response required all travelers coming into the country from the UK to get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. The UK put extreme restrictions in place after its discovery to prevent spread, and European Union nations have curtailed travel from the country.
Contact tracing is underway to determine who may have been exposed to the man in Elbert County.
“I want to thank our scientists and dedicated medical professionals for their swift work and ask Coloradans to continue our efforts to prevent disease transmission by wearing masks, standing six feet apart when gathering with others, and only interacting with members of their immediate household,” Polis said.
This variant is believed to be more contagious than previously identified strains. However, it is believed that the currently approved vaccines will still be effective against it.
“The fact that Colorado has detected this variant first in the nation is a testament to the sophistication of Colorado’s response and the talent of CDPHE’s scientist and lab operations,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We are currently using all the tools available to protect public health and mitigate the spread of this variant.”
The mayor of Simla tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers he was contacted by the Elbert County Health Department earlier today. He was told there was one confirmed case and one suspected case. The two workers are both contract employees that do not live in Elbert County, but were working together in Simla on the day a COVID-19 test was taken.
The following information comes from CDPHE and describes the genetic differences of this variant:
The Colorado state lab was the first in the country to quickly identify the variant through sophisticated analysis of testing samples. The lab initially performed the diagnostic PCR test on the sample and found that the sample was positive for COVID-19 with strong signals for the N gene and ORF1ab (both are detected when a person has COVID-19), but the signal for the S gene was not detected. When the S gene doesn’t register in the testing, it is called an “S Drop Out Profile,” and it is considered an essential signature for the variant. The sample was flagged for further investigation. Scientists then sequenced the viral genome from the patient sample and found eight mutations specific to the spike protein gene associated with this variant. Genome sequencing is a molecular profiling of the entire viral RNA sequence.
Gov. Polis and state officials will provide further details at a press conference Wednesday morning.