State testing indicates highly-contagious UK variant may be present in Hawaii

Updated: Feb. 3, 2021 at 5:47 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Testing of COVID specimens at the state lab has found molecular signatures that indicate the UK variant may be present in Hawaii.

Additional testing is needed to confirm the find.

The UK variant or mutation, which has so far not been detected in the islands, is extremely worrisome because it’s more contagious.

The variant drove up cases across Europe and has now been found in more than half of states.

Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist, said if the variant is found in Hawaii and continues to spread than so-called “herd immunity” could be harder to reach. Herd immunity refers to the proportion of the population who must be immune to a virus for it to stop spreading.

The state Health Department said testing of four specimens found a “molecular clue” associated with the UK variant. Further genome sequencing is being conducted, with results due next week.

Meanwhile, the state said it has found at least nine cases of COVID with a different mutation ― the L452R variant. The mutation has so far not been found to be more contagious.

The CDC has classified that mutation as “under investigation.”

The state said of 264 specimens sampled in January, 3.4% were identified as having the L452R variant.

This story will be updated.

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