New COVID-19 strain in NJ: More contagious, possibly deadlier
TRENTON — Public health officials on Friday confirmed that variant strains of the coronavirus have been confirmed in New Jersey, including in an Ocean County man who contracted what is known as the "U.K. strain" despite not having traveled.
The B.1.1.7 strain, first identified in England in December, is believed to be more contagious.
Until now, scientists did not believe that the strain was any deadlier than the common strain of the coronavirus, although they were worried just the same because a more contagious virus means more people will contract it and risk death.
But on Friday, British health officials revealed preliminary data suggesting that the new strain could in fact be deadlier.
While stressing that more research needed to be done, the chief scientific adviser to the British government said Friday that “the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected [with the regular strain], roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die." But with the new strain, "for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die,” The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
The Ocean County man who contracted the new strain was first tested on Jan. 6 after developing typical COVID-19 symptoms on Dec. 29.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Friday that after the initial test showed signs of the variant, the specimen was sent to another lab for further testing, which confirmed the variant.
The man, who had no known exposure to someone who was sick, never required hospitalization for COVID-19 and has since recovered, Persichilli said.
The other case of the U.K. strain involved a child who visited North Jersey. That person was first tested on Jan. 11 in New York City.
Persichilli did not cite the latest news from Britain and she noted that there is "no evidence that infections by this variant causes more severe disease."
Scientists continue to believe that the current crop of vaccinations are effective against the variant strain. Mutations are natural with any virus but unpredictable in their effects.
The first signs of the U.K. strain in the United States were reported in the last week of December in Colorado and Florida. This month, more have been reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Texas, Georgia and Florida.
Concerns about newly identified variants have triggered a spate of new travel restrictions around the world. Many countries have closed their borders to travelers from Britain, and the U.K. has halted flights from Brazil and South Africa. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there could be further restrictions.
New Jersey has recorded 18,754 COVID-19 deaths with another 2,121 possible deaths. Hospitals in the state have more than 3,300 COVID-19 patients, a number that has held steady since December.
(Includes material Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.)