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Highly contagious coronavirus strain first reported in the U.K. surfaces in Riverside County

An image of the coronavirus.
The coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, is isolated from a patient in the U.S.
(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Riverside County health officials confirmed the region’s first case of the highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in Britain.

The U.K. strain, known as B.1.1.7, is so transmissible that health officials worry that its spread could leave to another surge in Southern California. The strain has also been detected in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Alameda, San Mateo and Yolo counties.

County health officials learned of the case over the weekend, according to City News Service.

“It was inevitable we would see this strain in Riverside County, and in our large population we will probably see others,” said county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. “But it doesn’t change the need for people to take precautions with facial coverings, social distancing and good hygiene. It works for other things and it works for this, too.”

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Since the strain was first reported in the U.S. at the end of last year in a man with no recent travel history outside the country, there have been 981 cases across 37 states, including 157 cases in California, as of Thursday, according to the CDC.

Los Angeles County officials confirmed Monday reports of the fourth and fifth cases of this variant. The bulk of the cases have been detected in San Diego County.

The currently available vaccines are believed to be highly effective against both the conventional variety of the coronavirus and the U.K. strain. But health officials nationwide are struggling with a shortage of the vaccine.

Officials predict that B.1.1.7 could become the dominant coronavirus variant in the U.S. by the end of March.


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