Dr. Abisole Olulade details what you need to know about the new COVID-19 variant
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first detected in the United Kingdom has been found in San Diego in a man in his 30s, public health officials announced Wednesday.
The man, who was not publicly identified, has no recent history of travel and first became symptomatic Dec. 27 and tested positive two days later. He has not been hospitalized, and contact tracing is underway.
The variant — which doctors say is much more easily transmitted from person to person — was first detected in the United States on Tuesday in Colorado.
“Because there is no travel history, we believe this is not an isolated case in San Diego County,” Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.
Kristian Andersen, a professor in the department of immunology and microbiology at the Scripps Research Institute, said due to the county’s size and connection to other large, urban areas, finding the U.K. variant was not a surprise. He also said while the variant does appear to spread between people far easier, there’s no evidence yet that symptoms are any more severe.
“We don’t yet know, but we should prepare that this is probably what we are going to see in the coming months,” Andersen said. “We just do not have the data yet. Speculation is just something I do not like to do.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom disclosed that the variant had been found in the state during an online conversation Wednesday afternoon with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He did not offer any other details, and did not specify exactly where the variant, known as B.1.1.7, was detected.
Fauci said he was not surprised to hear the variant was found in California, saying, “we likely will be seeing reports from other states.”
“I don’t think Californians should feel this is something odd,” Fauci said. “This is something expected.”
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that local health officials had tested a limited number of samples from COVID- positive patients, and “we have not found any evidence of the variant in that first group of tests that we ran.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not here. It just means it didn’t show up in the first round of testing,” she said.
“… For all of us in public health, because there is so much spread right now and so many people who are infected — and we’re not running all of the samples through this sort of gene sequencing — it would be impossible for us to say with all certainty that the variant isn’t here,” she said. “And almost all of us, I think, agree that there’s a high probability that the variant is here, although at this point it doesn’t appear to be dominant, because if it was you might see it initially in the samples that are being run.”
But Ferrer said even if the variant is in the county, it wouldn’t change the infection-control measures that are already in place.
“I think whether the variant is here or it isn’t here, the steps we need to take are exactly the same,” she said. “Whether the variant is slightly more infectious than the virus as we’re experiencing it now in the predominant strain we’re seeing here in L.A. County, the steps to take are the same. And the urgency is the same.
“There is a lot of community spread, and that makes it easier for this virus to keep spreading,” Ferrer said. “So we’re all going to have to do everything we know how to do to contain the virus.”
Dr. Abisole Olulade joined KUSI’s Good Evening San Diego to detail what you need to know about the new COVID-19 variant.