NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A new, mutant strain of COVID-19 first seen in Great Britain earlier this month has made it’s way to the U.S.

A Colorado National guardsman helping at a nursing home southeast of Denver has been identified as having the first case. Health officials now say a second guard member may be infected too.

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The variant is said to be significantly more contagious.

“When we hear about it there’s no need to be afraid of it necessarily, but the important thing is that we understand it,” Parkland Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang said.

According to Chang, viruses are known to mutate. “There are a half dozen to a dozen variants of COVID-19 already floating around the world, in fact the one that is predominantly going across the United States is different completely than the one that started in Wuhan, China,” he said.

Health experts say while this new strain is believed to be more infectious, it does not necessarily make you more sick.

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“We don’t have any evidence that it leads to more severe conditions, hospitalizations or more death,” UNT HSC Associate Professor of Epidemiology Dr. Rajesh Nandy said. “Historically, other viruses have mutated to less lethal versions.”

If you’ve already had COVID-19, science suggests you’ve built up immunity against mutant strains The vaccine should also provide immunity against them. However, various mutations might lead to changes in future vaccines.

“It could very well be like the flu where everyone needs to get one once a year, which is just like the flu vaccine,” Chang said. “We’re all very used to that or it could be like chickenpox where you get one once and you never need it again. Or it could be like the tetanus vaccine where you have to have a booster.”

Chang says only time will tell and as always, stresses prevention measures are key for slowing the spread.

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Erin Jones