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COVID-19 : New contagious variant of covid-19 could worsen pandemic, says CDC

Alert for new variants of covid-19 0:47

. –– Newer and more contagious variants of Covid-19 will likely accelerate the spread of the virus. That means the United States must redouble its efforts to protect people. This was warned this Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English).

A variant of covid-19 first identified in Britain, known as B.1.1.7, is also found in the United States. And models indicate it could worsen the already terrible spread of the coronavirus across the country, CDC researchers said.

That means people should try harder to wear masks, avoid gatherings, and maintain social distancing from one another.

“This means that it will be increasingly difficult to control. We will have to do any of these measures to a greater degree, including vaccination, “Dr. Gregory Armstrong, director of the Office of Advanced Molecular Detection in the CDC’s division of respiratory diseases, told CNN.

“Several lines of evidence indicate that B.1.1.7 is transmitted more efficiently than other variants of SARS-CoV-2,” Armstrong and colleagues wrote in the agency’s weekly report, known as MMWR for short.

“Variant B.1.1.7 has the potential to increase the trajectory of the pandemic in the United States in the coming months,” they emphasized.

52 cases of the covid-19 variant detected in the US 0:50

Vaccination efforts – already slower than the federal government expected and promised – must be stepped up, the CDC said.

“It may be necessary to achieve greater vaccination coverage to protect the public,” the researchers wrote.

The United States is the country with the highest number of cases and deaths from covid-19 in the world. As of this Friday afternoon, the virus had been diagnosed in 23 million people and had killed more than 390,000, according to Johns Hopkins University

The B.1.1.7 variant appears to infect human cells more easily, leading to the spread of more people.

This variant of covid-19 has been detected in about a dozen states in the US However, the CDC also knows that surveillance is poor and the variant is likely much more common than that. Additionally, it is possible that the pattern of mutations that makes the virus most transmissible is emerging independently as it circulates between people. This is because the more people are infected, the more likely the virus is to mutate.

The CDC team ran an experimental model to see what might happen in the near future. It is not known how much more B.1.1.7 is transmissible. Nor how much immunity is there in the US population from previous infections. Which led the team to make some assumptions. In one scenario, the new covid-19 variant is 50% more infectious than the dominant variants currently circulating.

«In this model, the prevalence of B.1.1.7 is initially low. But as it is more transmissible than current variants, it exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March, ”the CDC team wrote.

‘If this behaves as it has done so far in the UK, Denmark and Ireland, yes, it will be an increasing proportion of all cases. No matter what we do, ”Armstrong explained.

“That does not mean that cases will necessarily increase,” he clarified. “It doesn’t mean we can’t do anything,” he said.

The new variant does not appear to lead to higher hospitalization rates or higher death rates, Armstrong noted.

“While there is a high probability that this is an increasing proportion of all cases, if we can get people to adhere more to the recommended measures, then the number of cases will not necessarily increase,” Armstrong said.

In addition, CDC must do more to keep an eye out for new variants and the emergence of this one.

“The CDC has also contracted with several large commercial clinical laboratories to rapidly sequence tens of thousands of SARS-CoV-2 positive samples each month. They have also funded seven academic institutions to carry out genomic surveillance in partnership with public health agencies. This substantially increases the availability of timely genomic surveillance data from across the United States, ”the team wrote.

Additionally, the CDC is on the lookout for a variant of Covid-19 that was first seen in South Africa and is now called B.1.351. Also from another that was detected among four travelers from Brazil when they landed in Japan, called B.1.1.28

“These variants carry a constellation of genetic mutations,” wrote the CDC team.

Pfizer vaccine would serve in new variants 0:52

Concerns are that the virus may change in a way that helps it evade immunity induced by vaccination or immunity introduced with antibody-based treatments. The new coronavirus vaccines are designed to be quick and easy to change. This with the aim that they can coincide with the new circulating strains. However, a major change would mean that people would have to get vaccinated again.

It is also possible that some of the changes make the virus more difficult to detect in standard tests.

As if that weren’t enough, the CDC also worries that if the virus changes in the right way, it could re-infect people who have already recovered from the coronavirus. Influenza already does this.