Rapid Spread Of Variants Across Europe Is A Dire Warning For The U.S.

Cases of Covid-19 are now found across all continents, but the global rollout of vaccines and declining case rates in several countries have brought hope to many. Globally, four vaccines have been approved for full use and six have been granted emergency authorization for limited use. As of mid-February 2021, more than 181 million doses have been administered across 79 countries. However, declining case rates in some areas do not tell the full story and as we are now witnessing the rapid spread of new variants. The efficacy of the current vaccines against these variants has not yet been confirmed and it is possible we are entering a new stage of the pandemic.

The highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants have now become the dominant strains in the UK (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1351) and South America (P.1). The B.1.1.7 UK variant accounts for approximately 96% percent of all new COVID-19 infections recorded in the United Kingdom. Worse still, a new study from the UK Government shows that the B.1.1.7 variant is more transmissible and linked to increased hospitalizations and deaths when compared to other forms of the virus. This gives us a disturbing preview of what is to occur in the U.S. in the following weeks and months if we do not implement vigilant public health protocols and rapidly expand genomic surveillance.

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Orginally published on Forbes on February 17, 2021

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.