Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S. government, warned this week that the more contagious Chinese coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. and now found in more than half of the U.S. might be deadlier than previously thought, echoing the recent findings of British scientists.
Last weekend, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that it reviewed data compiled by British scientists that suggest the U.K. variant could be more deadly than initially believed.
While briefing reporters on Wednesday, Fauci mentioned “the increased transmissibility and the likelihood of an increase actually in some lethality in the B117,” the official name of the U.K. strain.
However, the U.K. strain is currently the most prevalent in America.
“The projection that is made with regard to that UK is that probably by the end of March, at the beginning of April, it actually will become more dominant in this country,” Fauci told reporters Friday.
“I believe that we should be treating every case as if it’s a variant during this pandemic right now,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, added.
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and the CDC have acknowledged that even if the U.K. strain is not more lethal as originally thought, an increase in infections will strain health care resources, leading to more hospitalizations and potentially more deaths.
According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence suggesting that the variants impact the vaccines’ efficacy.
However, Dr. Fauci noted Friday that as the virus continues to mutate, the U.S. “will have to be nimble to be able to just adjust readily to make versions of the vaccine that actually are specifically directed towards whatever mutation is actually prevalent at any given time.”
Until January 22, officials from the CDC and WHO maintained there was no evidence that the British variant caused a more severe illness or increased death risk, only that it spread faster than other versions.
Citing the scientists advising his government, PM Johnson conceded on January 22 that the U.K. variant discovered might be more lethal.
We have been informed today that, in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant—the variant that was first identified in London and the South East—may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. All current evidence continues to show that both the vaccines we are currently using remain effective against the old variant and this new variant.
During the televised address, Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser, warned that the data about the lethality linked to the variant remained “highly uncertain,” the Wall Street Journal noted, adding:
In hospitalized [coronavirus] cases there appeared to be no increase in mortality. But among the population at large, deaths were higher among those who had the new variant, he said.
Out of 1,000 60 year-olds with the new variant, some 13 to 14 would be expected to die, compared with around 10 deaths per 1000 with the old variant, according to Mr. Vallance.
Based on those figures, the U.K. strain may boost fatality risk by 30-40 percent.
U.K. government scientists also reportedly predicted that the new strain spreads 30 to 70 percent faster than the previous versions.
Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and member of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus transition team, said that after reviewing the data from the U.K. and other data that has not been publicly released, he is s “convinced” that the new variant is deadlier, CNN reported.
Osterholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
The British variant has resulted in a spike in infections across the U.K. and appears to be spreading rapidly across the U.S.
CDC officials had detected the 52 cases of the U.K. variant in just five U.S. states as of January 7, Breitbart News noted.
Fast forward about three weeks (as of Friday), the CDC had identified 434 cases in 30 states, marking a nearly eight-fold increase in infections and a six-fold rise in states, respectively.
Florida (125) and California (113) and are home to the largest concentration of U.K. strain infections, trailed by New York (22). In the vast majority of the remaining states, the number of new variant cases remains in the single digits.
The Brazilian strain has only been detected in Minnesota so far. South Carolina has reported two cases of the South African variant, the only ones in the country.
CDC officials believe many more cases of the new strains are going undetected in the U.S.