COVID-19 variant cases continuing to rise in Orange County

COVID-19 continues to change and the increase in variant cases is picking up speed in Central Florida.

That has local health leaders continuing to push those hesitant about the vaccine to get it sooner rather than later so they’re more likely to be protected.

READ: Florida reports nearly 6,700 new COVID-19 cases, 84 virus-related deaths

Florida leads the nation in the number of people infected with a mutation of COVID-19. Orange County alone currently has 234 cases and it’s picking up speed.

Between last week and this week’s COVID-19 briefing, 51 new cases of variants were identified in the county.

READ: Orange County business owners “desperate” to fill open jobs, Mayor Demings says

Those are mostly the U.K. variant, but some people have been infected with the more deadly and more contagious South African variant in Florida.

“The viruses mutate and there could be this potential that they would gain some kind of mutation that would enable them to cause more severe disease or to be able to spread more efficiently,” said epidemiologist Alvina Chu, with the Orange County Health Department.

Chu said the virus can have a devastating impact on anyone regardless of their age.

WATCH: Not enough data to back up push that masks aren’t needed in Florida schools, experts say

“There are some young people who have had devastating infections that have severely impacted them. And many who have died,” Chu said.

The youngest to die in Florida was just 4 years old.

The average age for variant cases in Orange County is about 34 years old, but the department of health has seen cases in people as young as 5 years old and up to 84 years old.

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.