The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new variant contained a series of mutations.
England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said on Saturday that the new strain “could spread more quickly” and was responsible for 60% of new infections in London.
“We’re hearing that it can spread up to 70% faster,” said an epidemiologist from the World Health Organization on Monday.
“What they’re seeing is that the number of reproductions – that is, the number of individuals that an infected person is transmitted to – has increased from 1.1 to 1.5,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical leader for Covid-19.
“I just want to contextualize this 70% increase.”
Van Kerkhove said it was not clear whether this increase was “related to the same variable,” or whether it was due to human behavior.
“There is no evidence that this alternative causes more serious disease or increases the risk of death,” the CDC said on Tuesday.
But a strain that spreads faster may lead to more infections, which in turn could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.
Where is this strain now?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that as of Tuesday, “the strain has not been identified through sequencing efforts in the United States, although viruses have only been sequenced from about 51,000 of the 17 million cases in the United States.” .
“Given the small fraction of the US infections that have been sequenced, the variant could already be present in the United States without being detected.”
Public Health England said the backward tracing (using genetic evidence) indicates that the breed first appeared in England in September. Then it traded in very low levels until mid-November.
“Because this virus was already circulating for a while in the UK, the cat got out of the bag,” Gunder said. It has spread to other places, including the United States.
Who is the most infected with this strain?
“Most of the COVID-19 cases in which this variant has been identified have occurred in people under the age of 60,” the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
This can be a problem because “when people are asymptomatic, they are usually under the age of 60,” said Elizabeth Cohen, chief medical correspondent for CNN.
“So this may be the reason this is spreading so quickly – or part of the reason – is that many of these people are not showing symptoms, so they run and spread it.”
While severe illness from Covid-19 is relatively rare in children, “there is a hint of that [the new strain] Scientist Neil Ferguson, a member of the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said:… He has a higher tendency to infect children.
But he said more data was needed.
How do I protect myself from this new strain?
Van Kerkhove said this new strain means “we have to work a little more hard to prevent the spread.”
Gunder agreed. “What we really need is to focus on the things that we know will prevent the spread of this new species – the same thing that works against the spread of the coronavirus in general,” she said.
“These are masks, social distancing.”
Do vaccines work against this new strain?
Both the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine showed efficacy rates of around 95% in clinical trials. But now many are wondering whether the vaccines will work on different strains of the virus – such as the one that is spreading rapidly in the UK.
Pfizer and Moderna said they are testing their vaccines to see if they work against the strain found in the UK.
“On the issue of herd immunity, there is always a debate about 60% to 70%,” Shaheen said.
“But if the virus becomes more effective in infecting people, we may even need a high vaccination rate to ensure that normal life continues without interruption.”
The new Corona virus has mutated before, and both vaccines have worked against different forms of the virus.
“So far, I don’t think there has been a single species that is resistant to a vaccine,” Moncef Salawi, chief scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed, said on Sunday.
“We cannot rule it out, but it is not there now.”
How does this strain affect travel?
US Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Brett Gerwier said Monday that there are no plans for the US to impose a travel ban on the UK.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said British Airways, Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have agreed to require passengers to take a test for Covid-19 before boarding planes from the UK to New York.
“This is not really a travel time,” Gunder said.
CNN’s Zamira Rahim, Jimmy Gombrecht, Fred Plettgen and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.