The U.K. strain of COVID-19, known as B.1.1.7, has already taken hold in the United States, and experts are concerned that it could rapidly become a serious issue for the medical establishment to contend with. In a Jan. 11 interview with Chicago-based WGN Radio 720, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), warned that the spread of the U.K. COVID variant could have dire consequences in the United States if it's not taken seriously. Read on to discover what Fauci had to say about the new COVID strain, and if you're worried about getting sick, know that This COVID Protection Measure Is "Not Working," Doctor Warns.
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Fauci warned that the new B.1.1.7. COVID strain is more contagious.
Because the new strain is more contagious than previous variants, Fauci said that community spread can set off a huge wave of new infections and deaths. "If a virus is more transmissible and gets more people sick, among those, some of those people are going to get hospitalized and some of those people are going to die," Fauci explained. "I don't think we should take lightly the fact that it is leading to much more efficient infections, at least according to the Brits." And for more on where the current surge is headed, check out The CDC Just Issued This Grim Warning About the COVID Surge.
However, he confirmed that it doesn't make people sicker.
Fauci said that the U.K. COVID strain is not more likely to cause serious illness in those who develop it, but he cautioned against thinking that means people can let their guard down.
Even though he admitted the new strain "inherently, on a one-to-one basis, may not make a person more sick … we've got to be careful," he said. And for insight into where the virus is spreading fastest, find out How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.
The new strain "doesn't appear to interfere" with COVID vaccines.
While U.K. officials say that B.1.1.7 likely won't pose any problems in terms of the efficacy of the vaccine, Fauci added that more research has to be done on the issue to provide a definitive answer on potential interactions.
"It does not appear to interfere with the vaccines that we're using," Fauci explained. However, he added that the medical community is working to confirm that fact. "We want to make sure of that… We don't want to just blow it off. This is something we have to follow very closely." And for the latest COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Vaccines will likely be rolled out quicker in the near future to address the spread.
With both B.1.1.7. and the 501.V1 COVID variant originally discovered in South Africa posing threats to global health, Fauci noted that vaccine administration will likely pick up the pace in the U.S. in the near future. "There was some stumbling blocks and some hiccups, as it were," Fauci explained, noting that the holiday season caused an early impediment in getting people vaccinated in a timely manner.
However, Fauci added that soon, "you're going to see an acceleration of vaccine." If that's accomplished, he added, "we could get this done in several months and not more than a year… By the fall of 2021, we could start approaching some degree of normality." And for more vaccine news, check out If You Take These OTC Meds, You Have to Stop Before Getting the Vaccine.