The coronavirus mutation first identified in the United Kingdom last year is now the dominant strain circulating in the U.S., U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday, and it may be the driving force behind the upward tick in new infections over the past few weeks.
New clusters of the B.1.1.7 variant have been detected in connection with day care centers and youth sports, Walensky said during a White House press briefing Wednesday.
The CDC has also seen a rise in hospitalizations of people in their 30s and 40s, which Walensky blamed on B.1.1.7 and other variants.
Research indicates the B.1.1.7 variant is more infectious and dangerous than previous coronavirus strains.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Michael Osterholm said over the weekend that the variant also appears to more easily infect children and young people and could lead to more lockdowns.
B.1.1.7 has been on health officials’ radar for some time—experts projected as early as January that the strain would become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.
16,275. That’s how many B.1.1.7 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the CDC, though the true count is likely far higher than CDC sampling indicates.
The B.1.1.7 strain was first detected in England late last year, leading to the variant being nicknamed “the U.K. variant,” though researchers are still unsure if that’s where the mutation developed. The strain is believed to be behind the surge in coronavirus cases that prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order another lockdown in January. A study by British researchers last month found evidence the B.1.1.7 strain is up to 70% more infectious and twice as deadly as previous strains. The strain was first detected in the U.S. in late December in a man living in rural Colorado with no travel history, which indicated the virus was already spreading within the community. The B.1.1.7 mutation has been detected in more than 100 countries and every U.S. state.
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