At least 10 state health departments in the United States have detected the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant of COVD-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, according to a new report.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an update on Jan. 15, said that a “more highly transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7, has been detected in 10 U.S. states.” SARS-CoV-2 is another name for the coronavirus that is believed to have emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
Health officials warned that models have shown the B.1.1.7 strain of the virus has the potential to increase “the U.S. pandemic trajectory in the coming months” and “warrants universal and increased compliance with mitigation strategies, including distancing and masking.”
Increased vaccinations may need to be achieved to fight the virus, the CDC said.
This variant was first reported in the UK in mid-December, although the CDC noted that it may have emerged in September 2020. Meanwhile, B.1.1.7 has been detected in more than 30 countries, the agency said, while adding that it is easier to transmit than other CCP virus strains.
In the United States, the strain was first reported by state authorities in a rural area in Colorado, hours away from Denver. Other than Colorado, the B.1.1.7 variant was discovered in Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, California, and more, according to reports published in recent weeks.
“The modeled trajectory of this variant in the U.S. exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March. Increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission might threaten strained health care resources, require extended and more rigorous implementation of public health strategies, and increase the percentage of population immunity required for pandemic control,” said the CDC.
UK authorities said last year that the new variant of the virus was the reason for the increase in infection rates in London and southeastern England. But they said there’s no evidence that the variant makes people sicker.
The CDC, in its update, did not appear to recommend any new mitigation strategies.
“Further, strategic testing of persons without symptoms of COVID-19, but who are at increased risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread,” according to the CDC. “Collectively, enhanced genomic surveillance combined with increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential to limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and protecting public health.”
Previously, the CDC noted that so far, there have been a number of mutations to the virus.
“Among these possibilities, the last—the ability to evade vaccine-induced immunity—would likely be the most concerning because once a large proportion of the population is vaccinated, there will be immune pressure that could favor and accelerate emergence of such variants by selecting for ‘escape mutants,’” the CDC said. “There is no evidence that this is occurring, and most experts believe escape mutants are unlikely to emerge because of the nature of the virus.”