Austin Public Health announced Feb. 3 that the first case of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the United Kingdom has been confirmed in Travis County. According to an APH news release, the variant was confirmed through lab testing by a private organization and reported to the state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the variant, first discovered in the U.K. in the fall, spreads more quickly and more easily than other forms of the virus, although there is not yet any evidence that indicates the virus is more deadly.

Harris County announced Jan. 7 the first known case of the variant in Texas in a man who had no history of travel.

In a news release, APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said the news that the variant has arrived in Travis County “does not come as a surprise.”

“It is important to remember that these COVID-19 variants spread the same way, and so it is important to continue the prevention measures we have been using for almost a year,” Hayden-Howard said in the release.

Dr. Jeffrey Langland, a virologist and professor at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona, told Community Impact Newspaper that viruses tend to mutate the longer they exist.

“The virus is just becoming more used to the human population. That was expected and is not anything out of the norm,” Langland said.

Because not all labs in Travis County have the ability to test for variants, APH’s COVID-19 dashboard will not break down positive case results by variant. Since early January, COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations have continued to trend downward. After a peak of 1,461 cases was reported Jan. 13, new daily cases have ranged between 441 and 681 since Jan. 31.

The seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 hospitalizations has dropped from 93.7 as of Jan. 9 to 62.6 as of Feb. 3, and the area that includes Travis, Williamson and Hays counties is allowed to have businesses open to 75% capacity as of Jan. 30, when the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized dropped.