The British COVID-19 variant has been found in Puerto Rico
The B117 variant is said to spread easier than the original SARS-Cov-2 virus that swept the world.
The Puerto Rican Health Department announced on Tuesday, Feb. 16, that a local has been infected with the new COVID-19 variant that originated in the U.K.
Carlos Mellado, confirmed to CNN that a Puerto Rican woman, who lives in Europe was identified on the island and tested positive for variant B.1.1.7., one of the many new strains of COVID-19 to be discovered towards the end of last year and the beginning of 2021.
Mellado also ensured that the woman is in great care and is responding well to treatment.
"For the peace of mind of the people, we can be different and that perhaps influences the behavior of the variant. It is something that is being studied," Mellado said at a press conference at La Fortaleza after a meeting with Governor Pedro Pierluisi.
The woman, who is in her 50s quickly made a pit stop to Puerto Rico from the United States.
There are currently two other cases being investigated.
According to information given by scientists with the British government, the variant was discovered on Dec. 8, and is known to spread more easily and faster than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Scientists have stated that if things do not slow down with the new variant, it will dominate the U.S. by March.
“We’re concerned,” Jay Butler, CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, told STAT. “We want to sound the alarm and urge people to continue to do the things that we know work.”
The CDC also confirmed the existence of 1,173 cases of the B117 variant in 40 U.S. states.
The British strain also needs different treatments since the variant is more severe, and usually affects the upper respiratory system to dangerous degrees.
Since Feb. 18, there are 233 Puerto Ricans still hospitalized from illnesses as a result of COVID-19.
Numbers could get worse if the B117 variant makes its way around the island.
Government officials are asking locals to take the variant seriously by staying home, wearing masks and keeping six-feet of social distance.
Recently, Pierluisi and Sec. Elba Aponte-Santos made the controversial decision to open up schools in Puerto Rico starting in the first week of March.
On top of that, the governor also eased restrictions in Puerto Rico by reopening beaches, marinas, and pools.
Those measures went to effect on Jan. 8, despite growing concerns from locals.
“The changes are few, but they’re fair and necessary,” he said. “We’re still being extremely prudent.”
Restrictions can go back in place if there is a spike in COVID cases.
The island has seen around 1,850 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.