First case of highly infectious coronavirus variant found in US

(CDC photo)

Colorado public health officials on Tuesday confirmed the first U.S. case of the new highly contagious strain of the coronavirus that was first discovered in Britain weeks ago, prompting a new set of lockdowns there.

A state lab informed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the presence of the strain in a man in his 20s from Elbert County. He has no travel history and is isolating himself until cleared by public health officials, Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.

“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,” Polis said. “We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels.”

Polis said the man has no close contacts identified thus far but that public health officials were working to find others who were potentially exposed through contact tracing interviews. He said his office will monitor the new case “very closely.”

The discovery of the new strain, called B.1.1.7, in Britain alarmed officials and led to lockdown measures and international travel restrictions in southeastern England amid the holiday season.

Researchers have identified the new strain in more than a dozen countries, including Japan, Canada and several European nations. Last week, officials in Nigeria said the new variant appears to have emerged in that country.

“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,” Polis said.

The currently approved vaccines are thought to be effective against the new variant, according to experts. Polis said his office will monitor the new case “very closely.”

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned the public to take the new strain “very seriously.”

“We’re getting isolates of it, making combination of viruses, to be able to directly test, getting sera from people who we have vaccinated, and see if it still neutralizes this new strain, this mutant strain that’s coming from the U.K., as well as from South Africa,” Fauci told CNN in regards to studies to determine if the current vaccines can stop the new strain. “There’s a similar, but not entirely the same type of mutation that we’re seeing in South Africa.” (By Louis Casiano | Fox News)