UK coronavirus variant found in Contra Costa County

Coronavirus vaccines

Laboratory results have revealed the first two known cases of the highly infectious U.K. variant in Contra Costa County, health officials announced on Tuesday.

The B.1.117 variant, nicknamed the U.K. variant, because it is believed to have originated in the United Kingdom, is more contagious than others and possibly more deadly.

The presence of the U.K. variants was discovered as part of laboratory surveillance work during the pandemic.

One person infected with the U.K. variant began displaying common COVID-19 symptoms such as cough and muscle aches and was able to isolate at home, officials said. The other Contra Costa County resident reported having multiple symptoms, including runny nose, cough, headache and loss of smell and taste. 

"This is a reminder that even though COVID numbers are falling, we need to continue using all our tools to prevent another surge: wear masks in public, continue to physically distance, avoid both indoor and large gatherings, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn," County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said in a statement. 

While these are the first confirmed cases of the U.K. variant in Contra Costa, Farnitano said there are likely many more in the community that has not been detected. In fact, next to Florida and Michigan, California is the state with the third-highest amount of confirmed cases UK variant cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We can’t say how widespread it is in Contra Costa, but it’s concerning," he said.

The South African variant, another COVID variant of concern, has yet to be detected in Contra Costa County, officials said. That variant has already been found in the Bay Area, in Alameda and Santa Clara counties. 

Initial studies suggest the three COVID vaccines in the United State provide strong protection against the U.K. variant and others.