UK coronavirus variant found in Indiana: officials

The variant known as B.1.1.7 is thought to be more contagious than the strain that first appeared

At least one case of a coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom was recently discovered in Indiana, said health officials in the Hoosier State this week. 

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, "was identified through testing at the Department of Health laboratory and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," said officials with the Indiana Department of Health in a Monday news release. 

"It’s common for viruses to mutate, and we are seeing that occur with COVID-19," State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said in a statement. "Because this strain of the virus can be transmitted more easily, it’s more important than ever that Hoosiers continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene and get vaccinated when they are eligible."

No other details were provided, such as where in Indiana the mutation was identified, if it was locally acquired, or if it was identified in someone who had a recent travel history. 

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A growing number of states have identified the mutation after it was first discovered in the U.K. late last year.

Colorado was the first U.S. state to identify the mutation, and it has since been found in New York, California, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, among others. On Monday, Minnesota health officials announced five cases of the B.1.1.7 strain. 

Last week, the CDC said that more than 50 cases of the mutated coronavirus strain have been identified across the U.S., and experts have cautioned that the variant is likely already widespread across the country. That figure has since exceeded 70 cases.

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Though the strain is thought to be more transmissible than COVID-19, experts are confident that existing coronavirus vaccines will work against the variant. 

So far, Pfizer and BioNTech — the companies whose COVID-19 vaccine candidate proved highly efficacious in late-stage clinical trials and was the first jab to see emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — have voiced confidence in its ability to protect against the strain while also touting the flexibility of the technology should a tweak need to be made.