United Kingdom COVID-19 Variant Now in 4 U.S. States: Here Are New FAQs From CDC, IDPH

United Kingdom COVID-19 Variant Now in 4 U.S. States: Here Are New FAQs From CDC, IDPH

Local, state and U.S. health officials are alerting residents about the dangers of a new strain of coronavirus now confirmed in four states that has the potential to greatly increase the number of cases and deaths and test the limits of hospital capacity.

For residents of Kane County, that information stresses how important it is to redouble efforts to slow the spread.

The B.1.1.7 strain has been identified in CaliforniaColoradoFlorida and New York, according to USA Today and other media.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says it is monitoring the progress of the variant but so far has not confirmed any cases in Illinois.

That said, public health officials say the new strain is likely to spread quickly to other states if mitigation recommendations are ignored.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered a new nationwide lockdown for England in an effort to contain the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, according to the BBC and other media sources.

There are actually two variants that health officials are monitoring globally.

According to the CDC, several new variants emerged in the fall of 2020, most notably:

  • In the United Kingdom (UK), a new variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 (known as 20B/501Y.V1, VOC 202012/01, or B.1.1.7 lineage) emerged with an unusually large number of mutations. This variant has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States (US) and Canada.
  • In South Africa, another variant of SARS-CoV-2 (known as 20C/501Y.V2 or B.1.351 lineage) emerged independently of the B.1.1.7 lineage. This variant shares some mutations with the B.1.1.7 lineage. Cases attributed to this variant have been detected outside of South Africa.

Scientists are working to learn more about these variants to better understand how easily they might be transmitted and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against them. Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. New information about the virologic, epidemiologic, and clinical characteristics of these variants is rapidly emerging.

CDC, in collaboration with other public health agencies, is monitoring the situation closely. CDC is working to detect and characterize emerging viral variants. Furthermore, CDC has staff available to provide on-the-ground technical support to investigate the epidemiologic and clinical characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 variant infections.

CDC will communicate new information as it becomes available.

More About Emerging Variants

B.1.1.7 lineage (a.k.a. 20B/501Y.V1 Variant of Concern (VOC) 202012/01)

  • This variant has a mutation in the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein at position 501, where amino acid asparagine (N) has been replaced with tyrosine (Y). The shorthand for this mutation is N501Y. This variant also has several other mutations, including:
    • 69/70 deletion: occurred spontaneously many times and likely leads to a conformational change in the spike protein
    • P681H: near the S1/S2 furin cleavage site, a site with high variability in coronaviruses. This mutation has also emerged spontaneously multiple times.
    • ORF8 stop codon (Q27stop): mutation in ORF8, the function of which is unknown.
  • This variant is estimated to have first emerged in the UK during September 2020.
  • Since December 20, 2020, several countries have reported cases of the B.1.1.7 lineage, including the United States and Canada.
  • Preliminary epidemiologic indicators suggest that this variant is associated with increased transmissibility (i.e., more efficient and rapid transmission).
  • Currently there is no evidence to suggest that the variant has any impact on the severity of disease or vaccine efficacy.

B.1.351 lineage (a.k.a. 20C/501Y.V2)

  • This variant has multiple mutations in the spike protein, including N501Y. Unlike the B.1.1.7 lineage detected in the UK this variant does not contain the deletion at 69/70.
  • This variant was first identified in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020, and cases have since been detected outside of South Africa.
  • The variant also was identified in Zambia in late December 2020, at which time it appeared to be the predominant variant in the country.
  • Currently there is no evidence to suggest that this variant has any impact on disease severity or vaccine efficacy.

SOURCE: Centers For Disease Control

New COVID-19 Variant FAQ’s From The IDPH

Q. Is there a new variant of the COVID-19 virus?

A. A new variant has emerged in the United Kingdom with an unusually large number of mutations. It was first detected in September 2020 and is now highly prevalent in London and southeast England.

In South Africa, another variant has emerged independently of the variant detected in the United Kingdom. This variant, originally detected in October, shares some mutations with the variant detected in the United Kingdom.

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented globally during this pandemic.

Most variants do not change how the virus behaves and many disappear.

Q. Are these variants circulating in the United States?

A. Since first being identified, the variant emerging from the United Kingdom,  has been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.  There have been cases caused by this variant outside of South Africa, but at this time, no cases have been detected in the United States.

Q. Are these variants more contagious?

A. Based on the information we have right now, these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than previous strains and could increase the overall spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Q. Do these variants cause more severe disease?

A. Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death than previous circulating strains.  However, a higher rate of transmission could lead to more cases, which would increase the number of people who need clinical care.

Q.  Will vaccines be effective against these variants?

A.  Scientists do not believe it will have an impact on the effectiveness of the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the United States.  Testing to confirm this belief is pending.

Q.  What measures are necessary to prevent the spread of these new variants?

A. The most effective ways to prevent the spread of this virus, no matter the strain, remain the same as have been previously stressed by public health experts.  That means wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds, ventilating indoor spaces, and washing hands frequently are the most effective tools to slow the spread of this virus, no matter the strain.

Q. Are these new variant strains some kind of new supervirus?

A.  No.  Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.  Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear quickly.  Other times, new variants emerge and start infecting people.  Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.

SOURCE: Illinois Department of Public Health

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