A new British study confirms what researchers have been telling us about the new coronavirus variant that has invaded the U.K. and now the U.S.
The study found that the variant is so contagious that drastic measures may have to be implemented to contain its spread.
This could include a massive lockdown in the U.K. closing schools and universities, as well as the need to “greatly accelerate vaccine rollout,” the report stated.
According to The New York Times, Dr. Nicholas Davies, a prominent epidemiologist who lead the study, said the findings of his team of scientists should serve as a caution to other countries. The new variant contains 17 mutations and seems to be harder to control than the original SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19.
“Given all the biological and epidemiological evidence that has come together in the past few weeks, I think the picture is getting more and more consistent with something pretty serious,” said Davies, according to NPR. Davies went to work developing a mathematical model of how the new variant behaves after noting that a similar variant was wreaking havoc across South Africa.
He found that the U.K. version, which contains a mutation called N501Y, is approximately 50% more transmissible than the original virus. Other studies have shown that one of the reasons the new variant is so virulent is that it infects human cells more easily than the original, according to NPR.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the latest variant B.1.1.7., and said that at least 53 cases have been identified in the U.S., according to CNN. They were identified in Florida, California, Colorado, New York, and Georgia.
According to the Times, Dr. Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a faculty member in the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics who was not involved in the British study, said that the compelling evidence is cause for concern as the mutation hits the U.S.
“The overall message of it is solid and consistent with what we’ve been seeing from other sources of information,” he said, adding that the increased transmission of the new variant will impact the U.S. for the next few months.
Right now, scientists believe the currently approved vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer will still be effective against the new mutation, but people must be diligent in exercising social distancing measures, wearing masks, and avoiding large gatherings, says NPR.
Davies said that without a significant vaccine rollout, the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 in 2021 could exceed those in 2020, according to the Times.
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