The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement on Friday to warn that the new COVID-19 strain is more contagious than any other strain that has been discovered. The agency said that the new strain will make it more difficult for the country to overcome the pandemic and urged the US government to prepare to double its efforts towards ending the pandemic.
The B.1.1.7 was first discovered in Britain, but different cases have been found in parts of the United States. Head of the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Division, Dr. Gregory Armstrong cautioned that with the high contagious rate of the strain, the government will have to double its efforts against the spread of the virus. As such, vaccination procedures will have to be hastened to avoid a more uncontrollable spike in the rate of infections.
The country is the worst hit in the world, having the most number of coronavirus infections and deaths than any other country. Data from Johns Hopkins University reveals that over 23 million Americans have been infected with over 390,000 deaths. The new strain, which has already been discovered in 12 US states, is faster in infecting human cells, according to the CDC. The officials added that it could easily exacerbate the already high COVID-19 figures in the US.
The CDC researchers also stated that it is possible that the strain has spread to more states and the more it spreads from person to person, the easier it is for the virus to keep mutating. The officials said that they conducted an experiment to project how fast the virus will spread. Having no specific figure about the strain’s infection rate and how much immunity previous infections will give people, the team said they had to guess some parts of the experiment, NY Times reports.
A part of the experiment revealed that the new strain will spread at twice the rate of the SARS-CoV2. Going by the result of the experiment, the team projects that by March, the B.1.1.7 will overtake the SARS-CoV2. Armstrong stated that going by what the strain is doing in the UK, Ireland, and Denmark, the result of the experiment might not be too far from reality.
Armstrong added that everything is just being projected and nothing is foolproof and the country can still combat the strain before it gains a sure footing in the country. He also explained that available data suggest that the new strain is just more contagious and will not necessarily result in more dates or hospitalization. He urged people to take COVID-19 safety measures more seriously while the agency stays on the lookout for more strains.
The CDC team stated that the agency is particularly concerned about the B.1.351 and B.1.1.28 strains. The first one was first discovered in South Africa while the other was discovered in Japan in samples collected from travelers coming from Brazil. Scientists are worried about the possibility that the mutated strains could make vaccines and antibody treatments ineffective, make it more difficult to discover the virus in tests, and possibly reinfect those that already contracted it.