New California COVID strain identified in Taiwan hospital cluster

Pathology expert says too early to conclude new variant more contagious

Taoyuan General Hospital.

Taoyuan General Hospital. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The COVID-19 variant L452R, which is increasingly prevalent across California, is the culprit behind the Taoyuan hospital cluster infection, said Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), deputy chief of the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) medical response division.

A COVID patient who returned from the U.S. in late December spread the virus to his physician, Case No. 828 at Taoyuan General Hospital's intensive care unit. The doctor's live-in partner, a nurse working at the same hospital, later also tested positive.

In the following days, another doctor, three nurses, and a Vietnamese caregiver all tested positive. Three family members of the infected have also been confirmed with the virus.

"According to viral genomic sequencing taken from five of [the hospital cases], they share the same L452R variant of COVID-19, which is new to Taiwan but was first announced in northern California," Lo added.

The health department did not reveal where Case No. 828 had been staying while he was in the U.S.

Shih Shin-u (施信如), the top researcher for Chang Gung University's Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections, told LTN that it's too early to conclude that the new variant is more contagious, adding that further study is needed.

Updated : 2021-03-04 09:35 GMT+08:00