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New coronavirus strain, which spreads more easily, is found in Indiana

Shari Rudavsky
Indianapolis Star

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On Monday, Indiana joined a growing number of states that have identified cases of a fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus.

The new variant, which is not thought to carry a higher risk of severe disease or death, was first seen in the United Kingdom. It's behind England's latest lockdown.

More:State health officials investigating whether new coronavirus strain has hit Indiana

Like other states, Indiana has been monitoring samples from coronavirus tests to determine whether the variant is circulating.

Indiana Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratories confirmed the presence of the strain in Indiana, health officials said Monday.

“It’s common for viruses to mutate, and we are seeing that occur with COVID-19,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box 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.

Several other states, including Florida and California, have also confirmed cases involving this strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday said that more than 60 cases of the new variant have been found in eight states. In addition to the two above, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas and Colorado have had cases. California has seen more than 30 cases involving the variant and Florida has had 22.

Viruses regularly undergo mutations. The one, however, which emerged in the United Kingdom in September has “an unusually large number of mutations, according to the CDC. Last week the country went into lockdown.

Another variant, which also spreads more easily, has been detected in South Africa. A third variant has been found in Nigeria.

Although down the road a variant strain could prove resistant to the vaccines currently being used, experts say that as of now there is no evidence that has occurred. Recent studies suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does work against the U.K. strain.

Contact IndyStar reporter Shari Rudavsky at shari.rudavsky@indystar.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter: @srudavsky.