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The most contagious coronavirus variant may soon be the dominant strain of the United States

A highly contagious coronavirus variant will become the dominant version of the virus in the United States in March, emphasizing the need for faster vaccination, a new study of models from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests.

The coronavirus variant was first identified in December in the UK (SN: 22/12/20). Called B.1.1.7, it has some mutations that can help the virus spread better among people, although the variant is not believed to cause a more serious disease. To date, COVID-19 has been detected in 76 cases in 12 states in the United States. Because experts have analyzed the genetic footprints of only a small percentage of the millions of coronavirus infections in the United States, however, the extent of B.1.1.7 is unclear. Experts estimate that the variant currently causes less than half a percent of U.S. COVID-19 cases.

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But while B.1.1.7 could be present at low levels now, it has the potential to cause an increase in cases in the United States and overcome the most prevalent viral variants currently infecting people in two months, researchers report January in the Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report. Because B.1.1.7 is likely to be more transmissible, people should be stricter in following public health guidelines such as wearing masks to curb their spread, health officials say.

“These measures will be more effective if implemented sooner rather than later,” the researchers warn.

In the study, the team simulated how the variant could spread across the country from January to April 2021. Assuming the variant is 50 percent more transmissible than other viral versions that are already widespread in the United States and that about 10 to 30 percent One hundred people have Researchers have found that immunity to any form of the virus from a previous attack of COVID-19, B.1.1.7 could cause most cases of coronavirus in the country.

However, vaccinating 1 million people a day would help reduce substantially as many cases of COVID-19 and therefore hospitalizations and deaths caused by the new variant, although the variant would still dominate U.S. cases in March, he suggests. the study of models. Since the vaccine was launched in December, more than 10 million people have been inoculated against coronavirus in the United States.

Reducing coronavirus transmission in general, including the spread of other variants, could also further reduce the amount of B.1.1.7 that spreads, even after becoming the dominant variant. Stricter efforts to limit the spread of the virus, including greater compliance with public health guidelines such as wearing masks and staying away from crowds, will curb the spread of the variant and give medical experts more time to vaccinate more people and boost immunity. of the community. team writes.

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