2 UK variant COVID-19 cases identified in Maryland

Two Maryland residents have been confirmed as having the UK variant of the novel coronavirus, Governor Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Study finds new UK coronavirus variant is 'substantially' more transmissible

This is the first time the highly contagious strain of the virus, also known as the B-117 strain, has been identified in Maryland.

Hogan said he didn’t learn of the diagnosis from the State Public Health Laboratory until moments before a news conference on redistricting.

READ MORE: First known US case of UK COVID-19 variant confirmed in Colorado

According to Hogan, one of the residents returned recently to Anne Arundel County after traveling abroad.

"Our state health officials are closely monitoring the emergence of the B-117 strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the state," said Governor Hogan. "We encourage Marylanders to practice caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this strain. It is critically important that we all continue to follow standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing and social distancing."

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The couple is currently in isolation, and state health officials are conducting contact tracing to determine who the couple may have interacted with since contracting the variant.

The B-117 strain first emerged in the United Kingdom in late 2020. The strain has not been shown to cause more severe illness or increased risk of death when compared to other strains.

However, the strain has been shown to be more transmissible than other strains. Additionally, there is no evidence suggesting that the currently available COVID-19 vaccines are less effective on the B-117 strain.

To date, the CDC has identified 72 cases of COVID-19 caused by the B-117 strain in the United States.