Almost a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the United States, a variant from Great Britain is making its presence known in a big way.
While it’s not more deadly than the earlier version, it spreads more easily. That means more people are at risk and on the whole that could be just as bad.
Viruses mutate -- usually of no consequence to us -- but this variant is different. It spreads more easily and quickly than the virus that’s already killed more than 400,000 Americans.
Nationwide, 122 cases of it have been detected in 20 states, with Florida's 46 cases leading the way, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But there’s a good reason for that, said Dr. Aileen Marty, infectious disease expert with Florid International University.
"The fact that we're finding it in Florida is because we’re looking for it in Florida. It's really 'seek it and ye shall find,'" she said.
But, she warned, if you don't wear masks, avoid crowds and practice good hygiene, this UK variant is more likely to find you than the original virus.
As for Florida having the most cases, she said, "It may be even more prevalent in another state that’s not doing sequencing right now."
And don't be lulled by evidence that the newer version is not more deadly or likely to cause severe illness -- the original is bad enough on those counts.
"We do have to be concerned because as you have a variant that is more transmissible, that means more people are likely to get it, and since you have the same percentage getting a severe disease, the percentage of a larger number is a larger number," Marty said.
Some good news: it appears the vaccines approved so far will work on the variant.
Still, the battle against SARS-CoV2 is far from over.
"It all depends on us and how effective our politicians are at broadcasting the right message, from the president all the way down to the local officials," Marty said.