Scientists say Alaska has recorded 10 cases of coronavirus strain first found in California

A transmission electron micrograph of a particle of the B.1.1.7 strain of the coronavirus — a more-contagious variant first identified in Britain. That strain has been found in two Alaskans, while another strain first found in California, B.1.429, has been found in 10 cases in Alaska. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Alaska scientists have discovered 10 cases of a new strain of the coronavirus, first found in California, that researchers say is more contagious and possibly better at defeating vaccines.

The variant, known as B.1.429, was first identified in Alaska in early January and has since been detected nine more times, according to a report released this week by a consortium of scientists assembled by the state to search for new strains.

At least six groups of B.1.429 cases were detected across the state in January and February, the report said.

Scientists and public health officials have recently sounded concerns about multiple new strains of the coronavirus, saying they risk prolonging the pandemic even as governments scale up their vaccination efforts.

Two other high-profile strains of the coronavirus have also been found in Alaska in recent weeks.

Officials say they’ve identified two cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain, first discovered in Britain, along with one case of the P.1 strain, first seen in Brazil. That strain is also more contagious, and vaccines may be less effective against it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates both the P.1 and B.1.1.7 strains as “variants of concern.”

It has not yet given that label to the B.1.429 variant first found in California. But after the release of research that indicates the strain quickly became prevalent in that state, some scientists are suggesting that the CDC should adopt the “variant of concern” label for the B.1.429 strain, too.

Scientists say their research showed that B.1.429 was better than other strains at evading antibodies from vaccinated people — though not by a large amount.

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