At least one case of a coronavirus variant that’s linked to several outbreaks in California was identified for the first time in Hawaii, health officials in the Aloha State announced on Monday.
Officials with the Hawaii Department of Health in a news release said that a case of the coronavirus variant L452R was found through genome sequencing, which the health department’s State Laboratories Division has been doing since June in an effort to root out variant cases within communities such as this one.
The L452R variant was first identified in Demark in March 2020, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic, which has now claimed more than 2 million lives globally, began.
Though current evidence does not suggest that the L452R variant “spreads more quickly or poses a greater threat than other COVID-19 strains,” said officials, there is still concern “because it has been linked to a growing number of cases in California including several large outbreaks.”
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“It is common to find variants to viruses like COVID-19. Some present greater risks than others,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist in Hawaii, in a statement. “We are working with our colleagues in other states as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about the characteristics of this particular variant.”
It is important to note that the mutation identified in Hawaii is not the same as the ones first identified in Britain, known as B.1.1.7, and South Africa, known as B.1.351, respectively, though those variants have been identified elsewhere in the U.S.
“Neither B.1.1.7 nor B.1.351 has been detected in Hawai‘i,” said officials.
State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char in a statement said the discovery of the L452R variant in Hawaii “reminds us we must wear masks, maintain physical distance from people outside our immediate households, and avoid crowds.”
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“These safe practices coupled with COVID-19 vaccines will help us stop the spread,” she added, noting that Hawaii is “not immune to new strains.”
It was not clear where exactly in the state the variant was found.
The news comes after California health officials on Sunday warned that the L452R variant has been on the rise across the state since November.
Not unlike the U.K. variant, the L452R variant also involves several mutations on the surface spike protein, which the virus uses to infect cells.
In a call with reporters over the weekend, Dr. Charles Chiu, virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said the variant was found in about 4% of samples in December and jumped to 25% of samples by early January.
“The data so far is very preliminary, but it basically does raise the concern that there may be some impact on the vaccine,” Chiu said.
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The variant has been found in large outbreaks in Santa Clara County, in particular. Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer, recently said the variant was found in an outbreak among Kaiser Permanente employees in San Jose, which made headlines after dozens of cases and one death were linked to an inflatable costume worn by a staffer on Christmas. The outbreak later grew, with some 90 infections reported among staff.
“In addition to Santa Clara County, the L452R variant has been detected in Humboldt, Lake, Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo counties,” California health officials said. “Because genomic sequencing is not done equally across the state or country, it is too soon to know how prevalent the 452 variant is statewide, nationally, or globally.”
Fox News’ Kayla Rivas contributed to this report.