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CLEVELAND (WJW)– University Hospitals said it’s discovered several COVID-19 variants, including the UK variant, in samples from Northeast Ohio patients.

The samples with variants date back to December. They were discovered through testing developed in UH’s Department of Pathology’s Translational Laboratory.

“Based on our surveillance approach, it is felt that at this time the variants represent a low proportion of COVID-19 circulating in Northeast Ohio,” a UH spokeswoman said on Thursday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the UK variant spreads more easily and quickly than other COVID-19 variants. There is no evidence that is causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.

The UK strain was first detected in September and is highly prevalent in London, according to the CDC.

Earlier this month, scientists at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine found a variant in an Ohio patient. It carries a mutation identical to the UK strain, but likely came from a virus strain already in the United States.

“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” study leader Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology, said in the release. “We know this shift didn’t come from the UK or South African branches of the virus.”