The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the new COVID-19 variant that was recently discovered in the UK has likely been spreading undetected in the United States. The first case of the new variant infection was reported in the state of Colorado. The infected person had no travel history, which means that the new variant is likely being community spread already. According to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the new variant, VOC 202012/01 or B.1.1.7, has infected around 3,000 people in Britain.
Henry Walke, a COVID-19 incident manager with the CDC, said during a briefing that since the new variant spreads more rapidly, it could end up putting greater pressure on an already burdened healthcare system. Regarding two known new variants, he said: “The evidence to date indicates that both newly emerging variants spread more easily and quickly than other strains. However, there is, again, no evidence that these variants cause more severe disease or increase risk of death…”
Viruses change through mutation
“We expect to see new variants emerge over time. Many mutations lead to variants that don’t change how the virus infects people. Sometimes, however, variants emerge that can spread more rapidly, like these. Based on our present knowledge, experts believe our current vaccines will be effective against these strains,” Walke said in the briefing.
In addition to the person in Colorado, three other individuals are reported to be infected with the new CCP Virus variant. Two of them are also from Colorado, specifically from Arapahoe and Lincoln counties, and are apparently under quarantine or home isolation. The third case is from San Diego County in California.
According to Dr. Eric France, the B.1.1.7 variant is up to 70 percent more contagious than the first strain of COVID-19 that wreaked havoc across the world. He notes that individuals infected with B.1.1.7 can end up passing it to up to four or five people rather than the normal two to three people. This means that more people will get infected at a faster pace, thus worsening the pandemic. The new variant has numerous mutations on its spike proteins; the spikes are used by the virus to attach to and infect cells. Vaccines and antibody drugs target these spikes.
A study conducted by the Imperial College in London has found that the B.1.1.7 variant has an extremely high transmission rate. Its R number (reproduction) is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3. The R number has to be below 1.0 for the infection cases to start dropping. Professor Axel Gandy from the Imperial College noted that the differences between the two variants was “quite extreme” and believes that the new mutation is the most serious change to occur in the coronavirus since the epidemic began almost a year ago.
Meanwhile, an FDA panel member, Dr. Paul Offit, wants the U.S. government to hold more mass vaccination events to get more Americans vaccinated as early as possible. “We need to do essentially the kind of things we’re doing in our hospital. In our hospital, we’ve vaccinated 12 people every 30 minutes. And so we will plow through tens of thousands of people by having a very efficient system… And that’s what has to happen across this country where you have mass vaccination campaigns for all these different groups. Initially, healthcare workers, but then, people who are teachers and people who are working in utilities or mass transit and just have these mass vaccinations. We need to put that in place,” he told The Epoch Times.