As if the coronavirus pandemic weren't already worrisome enough, new COVID strains have started emerging across the globe. One new variant, called B.1.1.7, was discovered in the U.K. in December and has already forced the country back into a lockdown. Now, this strain has made its way into the U.S., which is concerning health officials. Based on recent research, the two most troubling things about this new COVID strain are how it spreads and how it affects the risk of death from the coronavirus. Read on to find out what experts have discovered about the U.K. mutation, and for more coronavirus strains to be aware of, Dr. Fauci Says This Is What's "Disturbing" About One New COVID Strain.
The U.K. strain may actually be deadlier than previous strains.
The U.K. variant "may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a Jan. 22 news briefing. Patrick Vallance, the U.K.'s chief scientific advisor, spoke alongside Johnson at the briefing and said that this conclusion is based on early evidence published in a report from the country's New and Emerging Respiratory Viruses Advisory Group.
"If you took a man in their 60s, the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to, unfortunately, die with the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die," Vallance said. "So that's sort of change for that sort of age group, an increase from 10 to 13 or 14 out of a thousand. And you will see that across the different age groups, as well. A similar sort of relative increase in the risk [of death]." And for more on the spread of coronavirus, You're More Likely to Get COVID From Someone Doing This Than From Coughing.
And the U.K. strain is also more transmissible.
While the associated risk of death is still based on fairly new evidence, Vallance said it is certain that the U.K. strain spreads more easily than previous strains. According to an assessment released Jan. 15 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), B.1.1.7 is assumed to be 50 percent more transmissible than current variants. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
But experts don't believe this strain will be resistant to current COVID vaccines.
Some officials were concerned that the U.K. variant would not only be more deadly and more transmissible, but that it would also affect the efficacy of vaccines—which would further exacerbate their concerns. However, that doesn't appear to be the case. A study published Jan. 19, but not yet peer-reviewed, found that the antibodies created by the Pfizer vaccine "make it unlikely that the B.1.1.7 lineage will escape" its immunity. On Dec. 23, Moderna said that they expect their vaccine will be protective against the U.K. strain as well. And for more on the COVID vaccine, Dr. Fauci Says He Had These Side Effects From His Second Vaccine Dose.
The U.K. strain is already in at least 20 states.
The U.K. strain has found its way into at least 60 countries, including the U.S. According to the latest figures from the CDC, this variant has already been discovered in 20 states. And because it is spreading so fast due to its higher rate of transmissibility, the CDC says they expect that this strain will become the dominant strain in our country by March.
"Variant B.1.1.7 has the potential to increase the U.S. pandemic trajectory in the coming months," the CDC wrote in their Jan. 15 report. "A higher rate of transmission will lead to more cases, increasing the number of persons overall who need clinical care, exacerbating the burden on an already strained health care system, and resulting in more deaths." And for more on the spread of the strain in this country, The U.K. COVID Strain Is Now in These 20 States.