An illustration of the coronavirus. Courtesy National Institutes of Health

A new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first detected in the United Kingdom has been found in San Diego County, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher confirmed Wednesday.

The variant — which is no more dangerous than the original virus but is much more easily transmitted from person to person — was first found in the United States Tuesday in Colorado.

Fletcher said the new strain was detected by Scripps Research Institute in a man in his 30s with no travel history. The man has not been hospitalized.

“Because there is no travel history, we believe this is not an isolated case in San Diego County,” he said, urging residents to continue to follow social distancing guidelines.

Discovery of the new variant was first disclosed by Gov. Gavin Newsom during an online conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The Governor did not specify exactly where the variant, known as B.1.1.7, was detected.

Fauci said he was not surprised to hear the variant was found, saying, “we likely will be seeing reports from other states.”

“I don’t think Californians should feel this is something odd,” Fauci said. “This is something expected.”

Dr. Kristian Andersen of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research said the existence of the strain in San Diego was confirmed at 3 a.m. Wednesday by gene-sequencing technology.

“We knew this was something that we were going to find here in San Diego. It was only a question of when,” he said at a media briefing.

He said that so far, the prevalence of the new strain is likely low, and the same precautions can be used.

“It’s still the same virus,” Andersen said. “It’s just that this new lineage may be transmitting better.”

Updated at 4:55 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

— From Staff and Wire Reports

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.