Tampa health experts say UK strain of COVID-19 likely spreading across Bay Area

The Florida Department of Health announced Thursday the state confirmed its first case of a strain of COVID-19 originally discovered in the United Kingdom.

The new strain isn't believed to be any more deadly, in-and-of itself, however, it is said to be up to 70% more transmissible. 

Experts say the recent finding in Florida is likely just the first and it is likely already spreading.

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"The ability to get from one half of the world to the other half in less than a day, somebody who is asymptotic can easily carry this infection and not even know about it," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Suman Radhakrishna.

The strain has also been confirmed in Colorado and in California.

The Florida case is a man in his 20s who lives in Martin County. Officials said he had a known travel history, but did not elaborate.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

"If I were a betting man; I'm not, but if I were a betting man, I would say it is already here in Tampa somewhere," said University of South Florida associate professor of medicine Dr. Michael Teng.

Even if that proves to be the case, there is still some good news. The vaccines should work on the new strain. 

So, too, do the safety measures we've become accustomed to.

"Wear a mask, wash you hands, social distancing, all those things will still work against this virus. The only concern really is people who are not doing those public health measures," Dr. Teng said.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

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