The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says the highly contagious strain of COVID-19 that originated in the UK is now likely to spread throughout communities, as the majority of people who have it have not traveled.
Nineteen more cases of the British variant of the coronavirus have been found, health officials announced Sunday. The total number of known variant cases in Massachusetts is now 29.
Here is everything you need to know about its presence in New England.
What is the English variant?
Variant B.1.1.7 has several mutations that affect the “spike protein” on the surface of the virus attached to human cells. This particular type of coronavirus is known to spread more easily and is causing a rapid spike in cases in the UK and other countries.
This variant was first detected in the United States in late December 2020. Florida has the most reported cases of any state, with 379, followed by California at 184. Most other US states still use single or low double digits .
A report was released last week say the B.1.1.7 variant is spreading fast and could become dominant in the US in late March. The study shows that the US is on a similar path with other countries where variants have become prevalent.
Health officials say the best ways to avoid it are more than the same – wearing a mask, keeping your distance and staying home if you are sick.
Where in Massachusetts has he been found so far?
There were 17 cases in Worcester County, six in Norfolk County, two each in Middlesex and Plymouth counties, and one each in Hampden and Suffolk counties.
The ages of those affected ranged from 4 to nearly 70 years, according to health officials. They included 13 women and 16 men.
Variant B.1.1.7 is first detected in Massachusetts on January 17. The first case involved a Boston woman in her 20s who had traveled to England and returned to Boston on January 3, where she remained at Logan International Airport for a two-hour layover before flying to another state, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.
Where else in the Northeast is it found?
British variant has also been identified in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and in wastewater in Vermont. Northeastern states such as New York (59), Pennsylvania (26) and New Jersey (38) also have many identified cases.
A total of 20 cases have been identified in Connecticut so far.
On February 10, Maine health officials confirmed Maine’s first case of the highly contagious variant of COVID that was first identified in the UK. The variant was detected in Franklin County residents who had recently traveled internationally, according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And on February 11, two mutations linked to variant B.1.1.7 were found in wastewater testing conducted by the City of Burlington, according to the Vermont Department of Public Health. It is seen as a strong indicator that the variant is present in society.
New Hampshire health officials announced Feb. 12 that variant B.1.1.7 was found in an adult resident of Hillsborough County who had close contact with a person diagnosed with the coronavirus after traveling internationally.