The variant, also known as B.1.621, currently accounts for some 10 percent of cases that were genetically sequenced at the University of Miami’s pathology lab last week, reported news station WPLG.
“In the last week, 10 percent of our patients had the Colombian variant. Why? Because of the travel between Colombia and Miami,” Jackson Memorial Health CEO Carlos Migoya told ABC affiliate WPLG.
The spread of the emerging variant is “a real shocking thing,” Migoya said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the first case of the variant was recorded in Colombia in January.
The variant has been designated by the WHO as one that requires “further monitoring.” It hasn’t yet been assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet—something the agency said would simplify discussion and pronunciation while avoiding stigma.
It is also under investigation in the United Kingdom, Public Health England said last week, noting that there is “currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.”
The WHO has urged people to avoid using country names in association with emerging variants.
The four CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus variants considered of concern by the UN agency and known generally by the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and India variants, were in May assigned the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, respectively, according to the order of their detection.
Historically, viruses have often been associated with the locations from which they are thought to have emerged, such as the Ebola virus, which is named after a Congolese river.
Currently, the Delta COVID-19 variant, which is believed to be more transmissible than other versions, was first identified in India in late 2020, makes up approximately 83 percent of all new sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to federal officials. It is also now the dominant variant of the CCP virus worldwide.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on Sunday urged Americans to wear N95 masks for greater protection against the Delta variant.
Reuters contributed to this report.