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Oregon officials on the lookout for new COVID-19 variant as US reports first case

While the variant, B.1.1.7, seems to spread faster, there's no evidence that it's more severe or that vaccines will be any less effective against it.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The COVID-19 variant spreading through the United Kingdom has made its way to the United States, and Oregon doctors say the state is ready to monitor for it.

They also say that, while it seems to spread faster, there’s no evidence that the variant is any more dangerous than others.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Colorado State Laboratory confirmed that a 20-year-old man in the state was infected with the variant, B.1.1.7. He has no history of traveling to the U.K.

“First of all, we know that the coronavirus, like other viruses, mutates all the time,” said Dr. Joe Sullivan, senior health advisor for Oregon Health Authority (OHA). “The number of cases associated with this particular variant is really high. Probably 60% right now of all the cases in London and Southern U.K. are related to this particular variant, which suggests that its spreading faster.”

RELATED: Colorado reports US's first case of COVID-19 variant initially found in UK

Sullivan said most experts don’t believe the new mutation is going to impact the effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, because structurally the viruses are the same.

The U.K. is using the Pfizer vaccine right now, and health experts there will be monitoring to see if people who get vaccinated still get infected with the new variant. They do not expect that will be the case.

Sullivan said Oregon recently got funding that will allow experts here to do the same.

“The thing people need to remember is there’s no evidence that this variant is more dangerous, in that it causes more severe disease,” Sullivan said. “In fact it might cause less severe disease. We don't know yet.”

Sullivan said one thing is certain as the new strain hits the States: It's more important than ever for people to get vaccinated.

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