Sumter County resident tests positive for UK COVID-19 variant

Cases popping up across Central Florida

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2021, file photo, registered nurse Diane Miller pulls on gloves and other protective equipment as she prepares to enter patient rooms in the COVID acute care unit at UW Medical Center-Montlake in Seattle. The deadliest month of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. drew to a close with certain signs of progress: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are trending downward, while vaccinations are picking up speed. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) (Elaine Thompson, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. – Sumter County is the latest county in Central Florida to report that one of its residents has tested positive for the more contagious U.K. COVID-19 variant.

The Sumter County Health Department said Monday that the sole case is the only one detected to date.

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Nearby Brevard, Volusia and Lake counties also each have just one positive case of the strain while Seminole County has reported six, Osceola County has reported three and Orange County has seen two among visitors, as of the most recent numbers available.

While the B.1.1.7 variant is believed to be more contagious, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there’s no evidence that it’s more deadly, leads to more severe symptoms or responds any differently to available vaccines.

Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said the best defense against any variant of the virus is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly possible.

“The pharmaceutical companies are analyzing and the evidence suggests that vaccines continue to be effective, as it is right now, although now only we have now the U.K. variants, we also have the South Africa and then Brazil and who knows what else could pop,” Pino said. “So anyone who has access to the vaccine that has the opportunity should get vaccinated. The concern is that it could continue to mutate and some of the mutations could bring resistance and that’s always a concern.”

The CDC reports that Florida has 147 cases of the U.K. variant, which is more than any other state in the country. About a month ago, that number was 22.

The South Africa and Brazil variants have both been detected in the U.S. as of late January, but not in the Sunshine State.