Israel Detects One Case of California COVID Strain That Can't Be Traced to Travelers

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A young man gets a coronavirus test in a Jerusalem center, last month.
A young man gets a coronavirus test in a Jerusalem center, last month. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel has so far recorded seven cases of the Californian COVID variant, with one case found during random testing, meaning that it cannot be traced back to a returning traveler.

It is possible that more Israelis have been infected with the virus and have not yet been diagnosed.

 It is still not known whether the variant, which is known by the technical name CAL.20C, is more infectious or whether it better withstands antibodies than the other variants.

On January 24, the Health Ministry reported that its central virus laboratory had identified the new variant of the coronavirus from Los Angeles. The first person confirmed as infected with the variant has infected four other people, the ministry said.

An article published by scientists from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said it was first identified in California in July 2020 and was found in fewer than one case per 1,000 at the time. By December, it accounted for 36 percent of infections in California. The variant is different from other COVID-19 mutations that have surfaced in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, and has also spread elsewhere in California and beyond.

A woman gets a coronavirus test in Jerusalem, last month. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

In addition, there are 444 reported cases of the South African variant of the coronavirus in Israel, the Health Ministry said Thursday, reflecting a major increase from last week, when there were 238 reported cases – widely distributed among dozens of locations in Israel. In addition, the first case of infection from the Ugandan strain was found over the past few days. And the British variant, which was first found in Israel in December, now accounts for about 90 percent of newly diagnosed cases.

The Home Front Command of the Israeli army has established a special group devoted to tracing and halting the chain of infection of the new variants. The team includes five officers and 32 investigators. The team aims to provide a rapid response to the presence of new variants by tracing infected patients’ contacts.

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