Health officials are on high alert as cases of a Covid-19 variant discovered in Colombia are rising in South Florida.
Variant B.1.621 now accounts for about 10 per cent of coronavirus patients there, according to Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health System.
Mr Migoya told Local 10 News that the B.1.621 is likely rising in South Florida because Miami serves as a “gateway” to Latin America, and there’s a lot of international travel between Colombia and Florida.
The B.1.621 variant is now trailing behind Delta, the most widely spread variant in the United States and the gamma variant.
Approximately 16 cases have also been recently reported in the United Kingdom. Health officials linked most of those infections to international travel.
Public Health England said there was currently no evidence to indicate that the B.1.621 variant causes more severe disease or can evade vaccines, but is investigating it to better understand the impact mutations have on the coronavirus, reports the Washington Post.
In the US the variant has not been named a variant of interest or concern, as overall it accounts for just over two per cent of cases as of mid-July, said John Sellick, a professor at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.
“The only time it becomes important is if it gives virus selective advantage, which we’ve seen with delta variant,” said Mr Sellick.
“We’ll see with this one. … What we have to see is two weeks from now, or four weeks from now, is this going to do another trick and wind up being more?” he added.
“If this thing is really more transmissible and goes from 2 percent [of infections] to 30 percent or to 60 percent; we don’t want to see that,” Mr Sellick continued, “It has to be more fit than the delta variant. It would have to be more transmissible.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring more than 10 other variants in addition to B.1.621.
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