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CDC investigates data implying mutant UK virus may be more deadly

1 month 4 days 12 hours ago Monday, January 25 2021 Jan 25, 2021 January 25, 2021 7:26 AM January 25, 2021 in News
Source: CNN
Generic image of a scientist in a laboratory.

Scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are consulting with UK health officials to learn more about British data that suggests a new coronavirus variant could be more deadly, CNN reports.

"The CDC has reached out to UK officials and is reviewing their new mortality data associated with variant B.1.1.7," a CDC official told CNN Saturday, using the scientific name for the variant first spotted in the UK in November.

According to a Friday, Jan. 22 UK report, there is "a realistic possibility" that the new variant has a higher death rate than other variants.

While the data is not definitive at this time, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "there is some evidence that the new variant ... may be associated with a higher degree of mortality."

CDC modeling shows this new variant not only spreads quite swiftly, but could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

According to CNN, the UK has one of the strongest genomic sequencing programs in the world. Their report gives details of several studies that compare the severity of the new variant with previous ones.

The UK's chief science adviser, Patrick Vallance, cited the mortality data, adding that the evidence is not yet strong and the data remain uncertain.

"If you took ... a man in their 60s, the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die with the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die," he said Friday.

"That's the sort of change for that sort of age group, an increase from 10 to 13 or 14 out of 1,000 and you will see that across the different age groups as well, a similar sort of relative increase in the risk," he added.

Only 195 cases of the new variant have been found in the US so far, according to the CDC, but public health officials believe many more cases have been spread and gone undetected. Cases have been found in 22 states, the CDC says, with California and Florida detecting an especially high number.

So far, studies suggest that the current vaccines will protect against the new variant and that wearing masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene are key to controlling the spread of the virus.

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