Scientists have discovered a new coronavirus variant in California as the state continues to struggle with a rising number of cases and deaths.
The strain was first seen in Denmark but does not appear to be a more infectious one in the European country that was linked to minks and led to 17 million of the animals being culled in November.
This new variant, known as L452R, dates back to samples as early as May in The Golden State.
It has been linked to multiple outbreaks in Santa Clara County, including one in a Kaiser Permanante emergency room that sickened more than 90 and led to one death.
It remains unclear whether the new variant is more contagious or just becoming more easily identifiable as laboratories perform genome sequencing.
The variant is also different from the highly infectious one first identified the UK that has recently been sweeping the nation.
The UK’s strain, B 1.1.7., has been identified in 18 states, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of federal and state data.
As public health officials caution that this will soon become the dominant strain in the U.S., Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says the warning should be a ‘clarion call’ for Americans to get vaccinated
A new coronavirus variant has been identified in California and has been linked to large outbreaks in Santa Clara. Pictured: Registered nurse Merri Lynn Anderson (right_ tends to her patient in a COVID-19 unit at S. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, January 7
Known as L452R, it has been linked to large outbreaks in Santa Clara and seen in more than a dozen counties including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Pictured: Nurses wearing PPE in a COVID-19 unit at Martin Luther King Jr Community Hospital is Los Angeles, January 6
As of Monday, the new variant has identified in Lake, Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Dan Diego, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo counties.
‘This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard,’ said Dr Sara Cody, director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, in a statement.
Cody did confirm that variant was identified in an outbreak in a Kaiser Permanente emergency room in San Jose that led to more than 90 people and patients infected and death.
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The new California variant has three mutations on the spike protein, Dr Charles Chiu, a virologist at UC San Francisco, told The New York Times.
It was first detected in Denmark in March in California in May.
Chiu said, in December 2020, the new variant was present in 3.8 percent of genome samples that were sequenced. By January, it was in 25.2 percent.
He told The Times that although there is no evidence that the virus is more contagious, ‘there are worrisome signs that this variant may be highly transmissible.’
The two vaccines currently on the market, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both target the spike protein to train the immune system to recognize the virus.
Chiu said researchers are currently studying whether or not the the virus will affect performance of either vaccine.
The vaccine rollout, overall, has been moving at a sluggish pace.
So far, just 12.2 million people have been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This is far short of the 20 million people the Trump administration had hoped to vaccinate by the end of 2020.