A newly identified variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is believed to be more contagious than established ones and it may have already entered the US.
The new strain, known as B.1.1.7, is just one variation among many that have arisen as the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has spread around the world.
The variant became known when it began to turn up more frequently in samples collected from patients in parts of southern England as early as September.
Researchers in the UK have found that this new strain is spreading quickly, displacing a crowded field of other variants that have been circulating for months.
Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, estimates that the strain has an increased transmission rate of 50 to 70 percent compared with other strains.
This raised concerns that the increase in transmission may affect how it infects children.
Wendy Barclay, government adviser and virologist at Imperial College London, believes that this new strain makes children “as equally susceptible as adults.”
However, researchers have concluded that disciplined containment measures worked just as well to curb the increase of infections.
“According to what we already know, it does not alter the effectiveness of social distancing, face masks, hand washing, hand sanitizers and ventilation,” said Dr. Muge Cevik, an infectious disease specialist at the University of St. Andrews School of Medicine.
While the strain is believed to be more contagious, there is no evidence that id cause more severe disease than its predecessors do.
The source of the new variant is now a question of intense debate among researchers.
While no one knows for sure if the variant is already circulating in the US, it does not rule out its possibility.
British experts have argued in the past that the government should be pursuing a “maximum suppression” or “zero Covid” strategy, instead of the widely implemented strategy to slow its spread.