Nevada reports 1st case of more contagious COVID-19 variant

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada is reporting its first known case of a more contagious variant of COVID-19.

The Nevada State Public Health Laboratory announced Monday it has detected the first known case in the state of the new B.1.1.7 coronavirus strain, which first emerged in the United Kingdom last fall.

Dr. Mark Pandori, the director of the lab at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, said the variant was discovered after genomic sequencing late last week of a specimen from in a symptomatic woman in her 30s in Las Vegas.

The woman reported no travel history and has had limited contact with people outside her household, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. The woman has not been hospitalized and is isolated in her home.

The new variant has been reported in several states in the U.S. and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has warned that it will probably become the dominant version in the country by March. The CDC said the variant is about 50% more contagious than the virus that is causing the bulk of cases in the U.S.

The CDC says there's no conclusive evidence that the variant is more severe than other strains of the virus.

"It is copying itself a lot right now, which can lead to mutating," Pandori said. "The more a virus spreads in a community, the more opportunities it has to make mistakes when it copies itself. This leads to what we see here and it's a very natural part of viral evolution."

Pandori said it's important that people continue to follow mitigation measures like wearing masks and social distancing as officials continue to work to administer the vaccine.

Candice McDaniel, the health bureau chief of Nevada's Bureau of Child, Family and Community Wellness, said Monday that 164,352 doses have been administered in Nevada thus far, including 22,438 second doses.

Health officials on Monday reported 984 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Nevada and three new deaths.

Since the pandemic started, Nevada has reported 271,897 total cases and 4,029 deaths from COVID-19.

The number of infections statewide is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, while studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Sonner reported from Reno.


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