The first person in the US found to be infected with the contagious new COVID-19 mutation from the UK is a Colorado National Guardsman — who was working at a nursing home in the state, according to health officials.
The 20-something military man had been sent to help at the Good Samaritan Society nursing home in Simla on Dec. 23 before testing positive for the virus variant, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said.
The unnamed patient’s lack of international travel history means the mutated strain — found in England earlier this month — may already be spreading in the US, fueled by British visitors in recent weeks, scientists said.
“The virus is becoming more fit and we’re like a deer in the headlights,” warned Dr. Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute.
The unnamed Colorado patient is now suffering mild symptoms from the virus, which could be up to 70 percent more transmissible than COVID-19. He is quarantining at his home near Denver as residents and staffers at the nursing home are being tested, Herlihy said.
A second person suspected have contracted the mutated virus is also isolating at a Colorado hotel, health officials said.
Some scientists warned of a possible new spike in cases now that the mutated virus has hit the US.
People in protective gear at Good Samaritan Society nursing home.Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
“Now I’m worried there will be another spring wave due to the variant,” said Trevor Bedford, who studies the spread of COVID-19 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “It’s a race with the vaccine, but now the virus has just gotten a little bit faster.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said infections are being monitored closely and officials are conducting contact tracing to prevent an outbreak.
There’s no evidence that the virus variant is more lethal or causes more severe illness, health officials have said. Scientists in the UK believe the vaccines now being dispensed will be effective against the illness.
With Post wires