Scientific advisers to the British government believe the COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom could be deadlier than previous variants.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, “is associated with an increased risk of hospitalization and death compared to infection” with the original strain of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, scientists said in the study, released on Feb. 12 (pdf).
While noting that the “absolute risk of death per infection remains low” with the new variant, the study confirms earlier findings that were based on limited data.
The study also noted that “in-patients did not identify evidence of increased disease severity” or is “linked to a higher risk of in-hospital case fatality.”
The UK variant, which was earlier determined to be around 30 to 70 percent more transmissible than other strains, has been spreading rapidly across the United States.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Feb. 14 that the UK variant may be the “dominant strain” in the United States by the end of March.
“We know now that, or we estimate now that about 4 percent of disease in this country is related to B.1.1.7,” she said. “And we have projections that it may be the dominant strain by the end of March.”
Walensky said that infections of the UK variant have been confirmed in 39 states.
The CDC stated on Feb. 14 that there have been 1,173 confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 in the United States.
Two other variants, one first identified in South Africa (B.1.351) and the other in Brazil (P.1) have also led to infections in a handful of states, the CDC said.
A total of 17 cases of the South African strain have been confirmed in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Just three cases of the Brazil variant have been confirmed in Minnesota and Oklahoma.
In light of the new variants spreading in the United States, the CDC said that “rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health.”
Some states, such as Iowa and Montana, have lifted some restrictions, including masking requirements, which Walensky said is a mistake.
“I think we’re not out of the woods yet. We need to get our kids back to school. We need to get our communities back to some normal functioning before we can start thinking about letting up our mitigation strategies,” she told CBS.