The Oregon Health Authority said Sunday that a third Oregonian has tested positive for a new, highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Sunday’s case, in Washington County, comes just a day after the state announced a second Oregon case — in Yamhill County. The first two patients had no known travel history, suggesting the virus is likely circulating within the state. However, the health authority said this Washington County patient has traveled outside the country during the exposure period; it did not specify where.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that the new variant, known formally as B.1.1.7, has been found in roughly two-dozen states.
The new variant spread rapidly in the United Kingdom, which led health authorities to conclude it is more contagious. Authorities do believe that existing vaccines likely are effective against this mutation.
Oregon identified its first case of the more contagious strain earlier this month, linking it to an employee at the University of Portland.
After spiking last fall and through the holidays, the number of coronavirus cases in Oregon has been in sharp decline over the past 10 days. It’s not clear that trend will hold if the new variant takes hold; authorities forecast that the new strain may represent a majority of cases within the next two months.
Health authorities hope they can blunt that spread by rapidly administering vaccines before the new variant is widespread.
Correction: This article initially reported that the latest patient identified with the mutant strain had not traveled. The health authority says this person does have a travel history.