New coronavirus strain: What you need to know

A new coronavirus strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, has made its way to the U.S. with confirmed cases reported in several states.

At least four U.S. states and 33 countries have identified the new variant, known as B.1.1.7. According to the CDC, the new strain doesn’t seem to make people more severely sick, but it does appear to infect people more easily.

While new information is rapidly emerging, here is what we know so far about the new strain:

  • New strains of viruses occur when there is a change or mutation to the virus’ genes. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, mutates regularly and acquires about one new mutation in its genome every two weeks.
  • This mutated coronavirus spreads more easily and quickly from person to person than other strains of COVID-19.
  • There is no evidence that the new strain is more dangerous in terms of causing more severe COVID-19 disease.
  • Our testing capabilities should still be able to detect positive COVID-19 cases caused by this new strain.
  • Both Pfizer and Moderna have said they believe their COVID-19 vaccines will offer protection against the new strain.

We are working with public health agencies in collaboration with the CDC to learn more about these variants and to better understand how easily they might be transmitted. In November, the CDC launched a National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance program and have ramped up sequencing efforts to search for the variant. Beginning this month, each state will send the CDC at least 10 samples biweekly for sequencing.

For the most updated information on the COVID-19 variants, visit the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/transmission/variant.html.

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