More Contagious Variant Of COVID-19 Reaches Florida

A man in his twenties in Martin County is believed to have been infected with the strain.

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It was only a matter of time. And that time is now.

Florida has its first suspected case of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, one that has already swept across Great Britain.

It’s now just a 90-minute drive or so away from South Florida, up Interstate 95 in Martin County.

The patient is a man in his 20s from Martin County, according to the Florida Department of Health. He has no history of travel.

All viruses mutate, said Dr. Aileen Marty, a Florida International University epidemiologist. But this new strain of COVID is up to 70 percent more contagious than what we’ve already seen.

And it's on the move: from England, to San Diego, to Colorado and now Martin County.

Commissioner Ed Ciampi said: "What I understand is that the lab that ran the test noticed a difference in the strain and so they ran additional testing and that’s how they were able to pick up data."

The mutation changes the virus’ spike protein that allows it to more easily dock onto human cells, but it does not appear to make people sicker or the illness deadlier.

Still, Dr. Marty said, "It does mean that if you’re in a situation where someone has this virus, your odds of getting infected have now gone up and because it reproduces so much more rapidly, the odds of you manifesting illness soon thereafter also increase."

 So the expert medical advice remains -- wash hands, wear masks, social distance -- until the vaccines can do their job.

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