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DHEC explains new COVID-19 variant, how S.C. is monitoring virus

The U.K. variant was discovered for the first time in the U.S. in a COVID-19 patient in Colorado.
The U.K. variant was discovered for the first time in the U.S. in a COVID-19 patient in Colorado.(Source: KCNC/UC Health via CNN)
Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 9:23 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is addressing how it’s monitoring the new COVID-19 variant that was first discovered in the United Kingdom.

The variant has started making headlines in the United States after a Colorado National Guardsman became the first reported case of the virus variant. One other case was confirmed in California.

DHEC states that the new variant appears to spread more rapidly from person-to-person than other strains.

But state health officials said there is no evidence that the variant causes more severe illness or greater risk of death. They also explained that having a new variant come about is not uncommon.

“Viral mutations are not uncommon and can appear and disappear over time. Scientists and medical professionals will continue to investigate and monitor the course of this variant,” DHEC posted on its website.

The CDC has launched a surveillance system of the new strain. DHEC said since early December it has been working with the CDC and sending at least 10 COVID-19 virus samples biweekly for genetic sequencing.

“This will allow South Carolina and the CDC to monitor for any relevant changes to the virus,” DHEC explained.

It’s also important to point out, that scientists believe the vaccines now being dispensed will be effective against this new variant.

“The virus would likely need to accumulate multiple mutations in the spike protein to evade the immunity induced by vaccines or natural infection,” DHEC said.

At this point, it’s not clear how the new variant made it from the UK to the US because the two confirmed cases have no history of travel to the UK.

The CDC is requiring airline passengers to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of boarding their flight from the UK to the US.

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