PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A new variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Arizona.
Health officials said on Friday that the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant strain, also known as the South African variant, was found in two test samples. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this strain spreads faster than the original. It was first detected in the U.S. at the end of January. So far, health officials say the vaccines being distributed to patients are effective against this strain. Experts haven't said how long they think the South African strain has been in Arizona.
The new strain of the virus is more contagious; however, there is no evidence that the symptoms are more severe.
The news comes after Arizona researchers confirmed the U.K. variant was found in the state on Jan. 29. Some doctors believe it may have been in Arizona undetected since November.
Health experts say it's typical for viruses to mutate over time as they continue to spread. Sometimes new strains appear and then vanish. Other times, variants show up and stick around.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said this new strain in Arizona is another reminder to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible and to continue to take precautions like wearing a mask, staying socially distant and avoiding large crowds.