ASU has seen samples that might be B117, but further testing is needed

By Stephanie Innes | Arizona Republic

Arizona has confirmed no cases of what appears to be a highly contagious strain of new coronavirus that was first detected in the United Kingdom, but some experts say it could already be here.

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“I would expect that the UK variant is probably here. If it’s not here, it probably will be here soon, given that it’s already been identified in the United States,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer for Banner Health, which is Arizona’s largest health care delivery system.

Bessel emphasized that it’s common for viruses to mutate over time during a pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 mutates regularly, acquiring about one new mutation in its genome every two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The British variant is known as B.1.1.7, or B117, and 52 cases in the U.S. had been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Friday, including cases in the neighboring states of California and Colorado. The breakdown: 26 cases in California; 22 in Florida; two in Colorado; one in Georgia; and one in New York State, CDC data shows.

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