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UK variant now the dominant strain in the US, CDC head says

Posted at 7:26 PM, Apr 07, 2021

A variant strain of the coronavirus, one that was first discovered in the United Kingdom, is now the dominant strain of the virus circulating throughout the United States, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.

The UK variant is considered more transmissible than the original strain of the virus, spreading more easily from person to person. The strain was responsible for a massive increase in coronavirus cases in the UK at the start of 2021, leading the country to go back into a lockdown, which is slowly being lifted this month.

According to the CDC, the B 1.1.7. variant is 50% more transmissible and likely more severe than the original strain.

“There is still reason for us to be concerned with rising case counts, rising variants reported and increasing hospitalizations, and there is so much reason for so much hope,” Walensky said.

With the majority of the population ages 65 and over now vaccinated, the concern has shifted for younger adults, especially given the UK variant.

“Hospitals are seeing more and more younger adults, those in their 30s and 40s admitted with severe disease data suggests this is all happening as we are seeing increasing prevalence of SARS COVID two variants with 52 jurisdictions now reporting cases of variants of concern, based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the be 117 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States,” Walensky said.

As of Wednesday, 19.4% of the population has become fully vaccinated from the coronavirus. But questions remain on when things can return to normal given the dominance of the UK variant.

“As we get more and more people vaccinated, you're going to see it a concomitant diminution in the number of cases that we see every day,” said. Dr. Anthony Fauci. “And with that, you know, the cascading domino effect of less hospitalizations and less deaths. I don't think it's going to be a precise number. I don't know what that number is. I can say it's going to be this percent, but we'll know it. When we see it, it'll be obvious as the numbers come down rather dramatically.”

Public health officials stress that having a variant to the coronavirus was not unexpected as viruses mutate when they are transmitted from person to person. While the coronavirus vaccines currently being administered still offer protection against the UK variant, there are concerns that as the virus continues to mutate, the vaccines become less effective.