Researchers Say New Strain of COVID-19 Spreading in U.K. Is Likely Already in U.S.
There has been a surge of coronavirus cases in England recently and experts are linking the surge to the virus mutation, which is being identified as “VUI-202012/01.”
A new strain of COVID-19 has caused flights to be shut down from the U.K. to several other countries, and now researchers studying the new variant think it has already arrived in the U.S., CNN reported.
"If I had to guess, I would say it's probably in hundreds of people by now," Michael Worobey, head of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, told CNN. ”It’s very possible it's arrived multiple times in multiple places.”
There has been a surge of coronavirus cases in England recently and experts are linking the surge to the virus mutation, which is being identified as “VUI-202012/01.” Scientists are estimating that the new variant is 70 percent more contagious than other strains of the virus, the Associated Press reported. The World Health Organization announced Tuesday that genetic mutations in the new virus said "may influence the transmissibility of the virus in humans,” but that more research needed to be done.
Worobey told CNN that it’s estimated the the virus would have arrived in the U.S. around mid-November. On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, also said Americans need to “assume it’s here already,” but is “certainly not the dominant strain.”
An official case hasn’t been detected in the U.S. yet, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday, but researchers are searching for it. Only 51,000 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been sequenced thus far, which is less than a half percent.
"Given the small fraction of US infections that have been sequenced, the variant could already be in the United States without having been detected," the CDC said.
Thus far, officials have said although the virus may be more contagious, there is no evidence that it causes more severe sickness, the AP reported. A vaccine should still work against it, according to top health officials.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 18.3 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and more than 323,000 have died.
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