New COVID variant that has been spreading in Florida is under investigation

A new COVID variant that was first detected in Colombia has made its way into several countries, including the UK.

COVID variant under investigation
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COVID variant under investigation

Last week, Public Health England (PHE) announced that a new COVID variant, known as B.1.621 is currently being investigated in the UK after cases have been rising in several countries including the US.

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B.1.621 in the UK

In the UK, 16 cases of the B.1.621 virus have been recently reported—a majority of which are in London and experts have traced it back to international travel. So far, PHE has said that there is no evidence that suggests it is more virulent or can evade diseases but they are still investigating its profile. They wrote on GOV.UK:

There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective. PHE is carrying out laboratory testing to better understand the impact of mutations on the behaviour of the virus.

Causing trouble in Florida

But the variant has been concerning health officials, especially in the US where cases have been on an incline in Florida.

B.1.621 was first reported in Colombia earlier this year, and has been making its way into the southern state because of high international travel between Colombia and Florida. Now it accounts for 10% of all COVID cases and is trailing behind the Delta and Gamma variants.

At the moment, it has not been named as a variant of interest or concern but that could change if the cases continue to increase. John Sellick, professor at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo explained:

The only time it becomes important is if it gives virus selective advantage, which we’ve seen with delta variant.
We’ll see with this one. ... What we have to see is two weeks from now, or four weeks from now, is this going to do another trick and wind up being more?
If this thing is really more transmissible and goes from 2 percent [of infections] to 30 percent or to 60 percent; we don’t want to see that
It has to be more fit than the delta variant. It would have to be more transmissible.
Fear of new variant spread increases with travel easing in the UK Fear of new variant spread increases with travel easing in the UK