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What we know about the new variants of COVID-19

9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said she's surprised by the pace in which the virus has been mutating and spreading all over the world.

New variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are popping up in different parts of the world and they're spreading rapidly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking the new versions of the virus originating in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Nigeria.

9NEWS asked 9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli to help break down what we know about the new strains.

Strain Discovered in the U.K.

The COVID-19 variant known as B.1.1.7. emerged in the UK in September. The CDC said the variant spreads more quickly and easily than other versions of the virus. 

On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown lasting at least until mid-February in an effort to contain the new strain.

“It has changed the behavior of the virus in the sense that it’s made it 70% more contagious," explained Dr. Kohli. "But, it does not appear to render the vaccines ineffective based on the studies that we’ve seen so far.”

The highly contagious variant of COVID-19 is prevalent in London and southeast England. 

Colorado detected the first case of the variant in the U.S. State leaders announced Dec. 29 a man in Elbert County was infected with the variant of the virus. He was a member of the National Guard working at a nursing home in Simla.

WATCH: Can you be infected with the COVID variant after already having COVID?

Variant Discovered in South Africa

The CDC said a separate variant of COVID-19 was detected in South Africa in early October.

The strain "shares some mutations with the variant detected in the UK," according to information on the CDC website.

The variant also appears to spread faster and more easily than other versions of the virus.

The CDC said there's no evidence the strains found in the UK or South Africa are more deadly or cause people to get sicker than the original coronavirus.

“The fact that they spread more quickly means that more people are going to get infected which means that more people are going to get sick and more people are going to die," Dr. Kohli said.

Variant Discovered in Nigeria

Another version of COVID-19 recently popped up in Nigeria. The CDC is monitoring the strain and "there is no evidence to indicate this variant is causing more severe illness or increased spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria," according to the CDC website.

The CDC is also studying whether any of the strains will impact the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Kohli said it's only a matter of time before the various strains of COVID-19 make their way to Colorado.

"it’s going to get on a plane and it’s going to fly here," she said.

WATCH: How did the new COVID variant affect Colorado's case count?

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