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UK coronavirus variant identified in Texas for the first time: officials

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Texas health officials on Thursday identified the state’s first known case of the mutated coronavirus strain first detected in the United Kingdom.

State health officials said the case was found in an adult male from Harris County who had no history of recent travel. 

“Results of genetic sequencing this week showed that the infection was caused by the variant. The case is being investigated by Harris County Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services,” reads a statement provided to Fox News. 

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The state health commissioner noted the case likely arose from ongoing community circulation.

“The fact that this person had no travel history suggests this variant is already circulating in Texas,” Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, said in the statement. “Genetic variations are the norm among viruses, and it’s not surprising that it arrived here given how rapidly it spreads.”

Echoing comments from other health experts, Hellerstedt stressed the need to double down on mitigation steps like wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing social distancing.

The mutated coronavirus strain first identified in the U.K. is believed to spread between 50% to 70% more easily but is not thought to be more virulent or dodge recently approved coronavirus vaccines. The variant has been linked to a recent surge in cases in the U.K., however, this is not believed to be the case in the U.S. 

“It is thought to be responsible for only a small proportion of the current COVID-19 cases in Texas and the United States,” the statement continues.

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The news comes just hours after Pennsylvania officials on Thursday also identified the state’s first known case of the mutated strain. Officials confirmed its first case of the U.K. coronavirus variant in a Dauphin County resident who had known international exposure. The patient, who was not identified by name, age, or sex, had mild symptoms that resolved while isolating at home.

In an update Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed over 50 cases of the mutated strain in the U.S.; reporting 26 cases in California, two in Colorado, 22 in Florida, one in Georgia, and an additional case in New York, for a total of 52 cases. However, the agency noted that the figures are an underestimate.

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