Mutated COVID-19 Strain Detected in Orange County

Mutated COVID-19 Strain Detected in Orange County
A researcher works in a lab that's developing testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus, at Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation in Nutley, N.J., on Feb. 28, 2020. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

A mutated strain of COVID-19 has landed in numerous Southern California counties, health officials said as they worked to better understand the variant.

The California Department of Public Health (CDCH) said Jan. 17 that the 452R variant has been detected in about a dozen counties, including Orange, San Diego, and Los Angeles counties.  The department said it’s not known how prevalent the 452R variant is statewide, nationally, or globally.

“It is common to identify variants of viruses like SARS-CoV-2, and we are working with our federal, local and university partners to better understand this variant and how it might impact Californians,” Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for CDPH, said in a press release. “It’s too soon to know if this variant will spread more rapidly than others, but it certainly reinforces the need for all Californians to wear masks and reduce mixing with people outside their immediate households to help slow the spread of the virus.”

The 452R variant was initially identified last year in other countries and states, including California. It differs from the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

The 452R variant has been attributed to several large outbreaks in Santa Clara County, and has in general been identified more frequently since last November, said the CDCH.

“The fact that this variant was identified in several large outbreaks in our county is a red flag and must be investigated further,” Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a press release. “This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard. This news underscores the need for everyone to follow all prevention measures and get vaccinated as soon as they are offered the vaccine.”

Michelle Thompson is an editor and reporter based in Orange County, California. Her award-winning work has appeared in numerous major Canadian daily newspapers, as well as multiple U.S. publications.