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UK coronavirus variant detected in Utah

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. More than 900 Mayo Clinic staff members were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the Midwest over two weeks. Credit: NIAID-RML

SALT LAKE CITY– The coronavirus variant that was initially discovered in the United Kingdom and later detected in Colorado and California has made its way to Utah.

 

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) confirmed on Friday the state’s first case of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, frequently referred to as the “UK variant.”

UDOH confirmed a man in Salt Lake County between 25 and 44 years old has tested positive for the variant. He has not traveled outside of Utah and is experiencing mild symptoms, according to UDOH. 

UDOH said it found the virus through “ongoing genetic sequencing of positive COVID-19 samples by the Utah Public Health Laboratory [UPHL].”

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said UDOH expected the strain to be discovered in Utah. 

“We fully anticipated we would find this strain in Utah. We know this strain is more transmissible than previous COVID-19 variants, and our hospitals continue to operate near or over capacity,” said Dunn. “So now more than ever, Utah residents need to wear masks, practice physical distancing and avoid large gatherings.” 

Dunn said the COVID-19 virus has been mutating, and this strain appears to be more contagious, but the strain isn’t more deadly. 

“The strain doesn’t seem to be more deadly,” said Dunn. But, she did mention it’s not the mortality rate health officials are concerned about, it’s burdening Utah’s already overwhelmed hospitals. 

UDOH said the new COVID-19 vaccine is believed to be effective against the new virus strain. 

This story is breaking and will be updated.