A new strain of SARS-CoV-2 (B.1.1.7) is spreading throughout the United Kingdom. B.1.1.7is also called SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01, meaning “the first variant of concern from 2020”and is making headlines. B.1.1.7is causing alarm among scientists and prompting new lockdowns and travel bans.
Here are five things we know so far about this new variant of Covid-19:
- It appears to spread faster and easier between people. The fact that this strain of the virus spread so quickly in a short period of time is cause for alarm among scientists in the United Kingdom.
- It does not seem to cause more severe disease at this time. To date, there is no evidence of B.1.1.7 causing more severe disease; however, due to its relative novelty, more data is required before researchers can definitively answer this question.
- There have not been any cases of B.1.1.7 detected in the US. According to the CDC, there have thus far been no instances of B.1.1.7 in the US. But only a small number of sampled cases relative to the total number of cases, so it is still possible that B.1.1.7 is already here.
- It does not look like this variant will compromise vaccine immunity. B.1.1.7 has the same spike proteins that the 2 FDA approved Covid-19 vaccines target. It will need to be determined by scientists how much these spike proteins are mutating, if at all.
- Masks, social distancing, and handwashing are still our most effective defense against covid-19. B.1.1.7 is a new variant of Covid-19, not a new virus or supervirus. Staying vigilant and getting vaccinated as soon as possible are still our best defenses from getting sick.
CDC. (2020, December 22). Implications of the emerging SARS-CoV-2 variant VOC 202012/01. Retireved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/scientific-brief-emerging-variant.html
Zimmer, C., Benedict, C. (2020, Dec 21). The U.K. Coronavirus variant: What we know. Retrieved from New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/21/health/new-covid-strain-uk.html