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More cases involving new strain of Coronavirus believed to be in San Diego

Because the 30-year-old man diagnosed with this more contagious variant had not traveled, scientists believe other cases are already in the community.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A 30-year-old man in San Diego County has been diagnosed with the newer, more contagious strain of coronavirus first detected in the United Kingdom. 

Cutting-edge genomic sequencing allowed scientists to quickly identify this variant, which spreads up to 70 percent more easily than the normal strain of COVIID-19.

The man, who had not traveled anywhere, according to health authorities, remains isolated and is recovering at home, while the others in his household are now being tested. 

Researchers say that because of how prevalent this strain has been in other parts of the world and because of travel patterns, it was bound to show up here in San Diego: it was only a question of when.

"I don't think Californians should think that this is something odd, this is expected," said infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking Wednesday with Governor Gavin Newsom.

Dr. Fauci said there are likely more cases with this more contagious strain of coronavirus, known as B.1.1.7, here in California and in other states as well.

The 30-year-old man diagnosed with the strain here felt symptoms on Sunday and learned Tuesday that he was positive. 

"The case had no history of travel, so we know there's more," said Dr. Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research. "We don't know how many."

Andersen said that while preliminary data out of the U.K. indicates this strain is more contagious, the steps to protect ourselves from it -- face coverings, social distancing and abiding by the health order -- remain the same.

"Detecting this lineage here does not change what we need to do, other than we need to do it better," Dr. Andersen added. 

While studies so far show that this strain is transmitted more easily, further research in the coming weeks should confirm that as well as whether this U.K. strain is any more dangerous than the normal strain. 

All indications at this point are that it is no more dangerous or deadly. The 30-year-old in this local case is now recovering at home.

Dr. Eric McDonald of the County health department confirmed that symptoms are similar to the ones we are already familiar with.

"The patient will present the same way, or in fact be asymptomatic," Dr. McDonald said 

Another question that remains, is whether this new, more contagious strain may affect those who've already been vaccinated or previously recovered from COVID-19.

"We are hopeful that this particular strain will not have any effect or minimal effect on pre-existing immunity from previous infection or vaccination, but we need to wait for the data," Dr. Andersen said 

Researchers here in San Diego are also actively collaborating with researchers just across the border in Mexico, where this new strain has not been detected yet," although Dr. McDonald said he thinks that "it is unfortunately just a matter of time."

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