By CBSLA Staff

VENTURA (CBSLA) — A mutation found in COVID-19 variants causing concern in the United Kingdom and South Africa has been detected in Ventura County, officials said.

Oxnard has been testing samples of its wastewater weekly for some time, and recently detected a mutation identified as N501Y, which is present in both the United Kingdom and South African variants of COVID-19. The N501Y mutation has been documented in at least 24 states, and was first detected in California on Dec. 30.

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However, Ventura County officials say that the sewage plant – which serves about 250,000 people – is seeing a decrease of COVID-19 cases, and that the N501Y mutation was present in only 0.283% of all the virus present in the sample. The sample was 99% of the original Wuhan COVID-199 virus, according to Ventura County spokeswoman Ashley Bautista.

“The presence of this mutation in such a small amount of the sample tells me that this virus is not widespread in our county yet,” Ventura County Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin said in a statement.

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It remains unclear if detection of the mutation means the UK variant is in Ventura County, or the virus that currently exists in the region just happens to share some of its mutations. County officials say testing over the next two weeks will make that determination. The mutation is associated with increased transmissibility, but not increased rates of death.

County officials say the presence of the mutation can be avoided by continuing to observe social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask, washing hands and avoiding gatherings.

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“Evidence of this is that while this virus is probably present throughout the United States, the numbers of COVID infections are decreasing over the last week,” Dr. Levin said.