Experts: New COVID-19 strain in Florida is more widespread than known

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) reports it has evidence of the first identified case of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant in Martin County.

Health officials describe the individual as a man in his 20s with no history of travel. The new and more contagious coronavirus strain was first detected in the U.K. in September but has now been detected in Florida, Colorado, and California. 

"As cases pop up and as the variant is discovered we might find that it's in more places than just a few states," said Dr. Jason Littleton. "Right now we're not really seeing any pattern. I think it's possible the variant is all over the US right now."

Infectious Disease expert Dr. William Schaffner said the new variant could be widespread but the cases haven't been detected yet. He said when someone tests positive for COVID-19, it takes further testing to find out the specific strain of the virus. 

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"The way you detect the strain is that you get viruses from people with positive tests, take them into the laboratory and analyze their genetic composition that takes special talent and equipment," said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. 

Dr. Schaffner told FOX 35 that it is typically not something done for every positive case. He explained some potential scenarios. 

"You decided according to some protocol to test every 100 people or people who've had second infections, or outbreaks where there may be very rapid spread and you have a high suspicion it might be the strain," said Dr. Schaffner. 

Some health experts are concerned about what this strain could mean for hospitals. 

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"This virus, this new strain, doesn't make you sicker but the very fact that it spreads so readily that it will eventually find frailer people and they will be hospitalized," said Dr. Schaffner. 

Orlando Health said in a statement: 

Orlando Health continues to follow the CDC guidelines for diagnosing and treating patients with COVID-19. At this time, we’re closely monitoring the situation and continue to urge the community to practice good hand hygiene, wear masks and maintain proper social distance. 


Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest coronavirus news.