Coronavirus variant linked to COVID-19 outbreaks in California

ÖOn Sunday (Jan. 17), public health officials announced that the SARS-CoV-2 variant L452R is becoming increasingly common in several California countries and is responsible for several major COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.

L452R was first detected in Denmark in March 2020 and later identified in the US last year. However, the latest sequencing results from California show that the proportion of COVID-19 cases associated with this variant rose from 3.8 percent to 25 percent between mid-November and the end of December, The Mercury News Reports. One of those outbursts loud The Washington Post, was linked to a hospital worker in San Jose who was wearing an inflatable Christmas tree costume and who may have infected at least 90 people with the L452 variant.

“It is common to identify variants of viruses like SARS-CoV-2,” said Erica Pan, an epidemiologist at the California Department of Health, in a statement. “It’s too early to know whether this variant is spreading faster than others.”

A highly transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2, known as B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the UK, is now spreading in the US and could become the dominant variant by March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no evidence that B.1.1.7 causes more serious illness than other variants or that it evades vaccines.

See: “First US case of a British SARS-CoV-2 variant discovered

The L452 variant has three mutations that differ from the mutations in B.1.1.7, including one in the spike protein, which allows the virus to bind to and enter cells. The spike protein is the target of the two US-approved vaccines. “Now that we know this variant is on the rise in our local communities, we’re prioritizing it for study,” said Charles Chiu, a virologist at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), in the statement. “Researchers at UCSF and elsewhere can now conduct the critical laboratory experiments to determine if this virus is more contagious or interfering with vaccination performance.”

“Since genome sequencing is not done equally in all states or countries, it is too early to know how widespread the 452 variant is nationwide, nationally or globally,” the statement said. Some experts say the US is falling short in its sequencing efforts and needs a more coordinated approach to effectively monitoring potentially contagious new variants. The New York Times Reported earlier this month. According to The Washington Post end of December the USA had genetically analyzed only about 0.3 percent of COVID-19 cases, placing the country 43rd in the global ranking of the percentage of cases sequenced at the time.

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