The coronavirus strain named B.1.1.7, discovered in the UK in December, is set to become the dominant strain in the United States. B.1.1.7 is more contagious and has genetic mutations that help it to spread faster among people.
Experts estimate that the variant currently causes less than half a percent of U.S. COVID-19 cases, but the number will soon surge and outpace the most prevalent viral variants currently affecting people in at least two months.
Vaccinations might help reduce the spread
In a study carried out by a team of researchers, a simulation was run to determine how the variant might spread in the country from January to April 2021.
Assuming that the variant is 50% more transmissible than other viral versions already in the United States, 10 to 30 percent of people have immunity against any form of the virus from a previous bout of COVID-19, B.1.1.7 could cause most coronavirus cases in the country by March, the researchers found.
Vaccinating up to 1 million people a day could help substantially reduce the number of COVID-19 cases—and hospitalizations and deaths—caused by the new variant, the modeling study suggests.
Reducing the transmission of coronavirus is crucial
Since the rollout of vaccines in December, more than 10 million people have been inoculated against the coronavirus in the United States.
But researchers warn that other measures have to be carried out to effectively reduce the spread of the virus.
“These measures will be more effective if they are instituted sooner rather than later,” the researchers said in their report.
Because B.1.1.7 is more transmissible, people must be more rigorous about following public health guidelines such as wearing masks to curb its spread, staying away from crowded areas, disinfecting surfaces, etc. This will give medical experts more time to vaccinate people and build up community immunity.