New COVID variant may already be in Michigan

Health officials say a new and more contagious variant of the COVID virus is probably already in Michigan, but screening hasn't proven it. Yet.

A more infectious version of the coronavirus has been popping up in places around the world. Cases have been confirmed in several U.S. states, but so far none has been found in Michigan.

However, state health officials say it’s likely here and people should be aware of its potential to cause a rise in infections.

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What Is It: The mutant strain of the COVID-19 virus is called B.1.1.7. It’s also colloquially referred to as the U.K. Variant due to its emergence in the England.

There have been many variants of the coronavirus since the global pandemic began. This one is concerning because, experts say, it has a rate of transmission 1.5 times greater than other versions of the virus. That means it could spread much more quickly through the population.

There is no indication that it causes worse health effects or is any more deadly than the original novel coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is likely the two vaccines being given to people in the U.S. will protect against this version.

State officials are keeping an eye out for the new strain of the virus, but they’re already worried.

“If and when it does come within our borders, I think we’re all very concerned that it could cause a significant increase in cases,” said Sarah Esty, director of policy and planning at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “So we will be continuing to monitor this closely and consider the implications for our orders.”

You can read more on MLive.

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