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What is Super Covid? Colorado man with no travel history is US's first case of UK's highly contagious strain

The B.1.1.7 variant of the Covid-19 virus was first detected in the United Kingdom and is believed to be 70 percent more contagious than the SARS-CoV-2 variant
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The new, more contagious strain of Covid-19, first detected in the United Kingdom, has been detected in Colorado as Governor Jared Polis and state health officials announced the state and the United States' first case of the Covid-19 variant B.1.1.7, also dubbed the "Super Covid." The infected individual is a Colorado man in his 20s who has no travel history to the United Kingdom, making it likely that he got it locally. He is currently in isolation in Elbert County.

Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told CBS, "The fact that Colorado has detected this variant first in the nation is a testament to the sophistication of Colorado’s response and the talent of CDPHE’s scientist and lab operations." Governor Polis stated, "There is a lot we don’t know about this new Covid-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious. The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all Covid-19 indicators, very closely. We are working to prevent spread and contain the virus at all levels."

What is Super Covid?

The B.1.1.7 variant of the Covid-19 virus was first detected in the United Kingdom and is believed to be 70 percent more contagious than the SARS-CoV-2 variant, however, the severity of the symptoms does not seem to change. The variant, also referred to as VUI-202012/01, showed up with at least 17 mutations according to one genetic analysis. Some of those mutations are in the stretch of the genome which carries instructions for the virus's spike protein that binds it to human cells. The approved vaccines are designed to teach the human body's immune system to make antibodies that recognize and block the spike proteins. It is believed that the currently approved vaccines will be effective against the new variant. Researchers have also observed two deletions in the RNA sequence of the virus which appear to decrease the sensitivity of human antibodies to the virus.

Another study showed that the new variant does not result in a more severe illness. The study stated, "Preliminary results from the cohort study found no statistically significant difference in hospitalization and 28-day case fatality between cases with the variant" and the more common strain. It also noted that the likelihood of reinfection likely followed the same pattern as well.

Dr Payal Kohli told 9News, "Even though it doesn’t appear to be making people sicker, in other words, it’s not causing a more severe version of the illness…but because it spreads much more efficiently, more people will get COVID-19 and hence more people will end up in the hospital, and of course more people will end up dying from it."

Kohli continued, "If we don’t keep our guard up, in fact, if we don’t double down our guard at this point — because now we have something that’s much more contagious — then it’s going to spread more quickly. 

According to health officials, the Colorado state lab was the first in the country to identify the new variant through sophisticated analysis of testing samples. A diagnostic PCR test was performed on the sample initially and when it was found to be positive with strong signals for the N gene and ORF1ab (detected when a person has Covid-19). However, the signal for the S gene was not detected, which is considered an essential signature for the B.1.1.7 variant.