Story at a glance:
- This contagious version was in the U.S and U.K. as early as October.
- Some 15,000 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been reported in the U.S.
- From the U.K., the new variant quickly spread into at least 15 countries from tourists.
The highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first found in the U.K. has now been identified in every U.S. state and has been spreading in the U.S. since October. More than 15,000 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been reported in the U.S. The variant may be more deadly than the original strain of COVID-19, experts warn.
In the United Kingdom, scientists discovered the B.1.1.7 variant in early December.
“By the time we learned about the U.K. variant in December, it was already silently spreading across the globe,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, the director of the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at The University of Texas at Austin and a professor of integrative biology, said. “We estimate that the B117 variant probably arrived in the U.S. by October of 2020, two months before we knew it existed.”
Scientists recently analyzed data from 15 countries to estimate the likelihood of visitors from the U.K. spreading the variant. The result was that the virus indeed was reported in all 15 countries by mid-November.
“This study highlights the importance of laboratory surveillance,” Meyers said. “Rapid and extensive sequencing of virus samples is critical for early detection and tracking of new variants of concern.”
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