CDC: Variant first identified in UK now most common in US

A variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom is now the most common strain circulating in the United States.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday that the strain, formally known as B.1.1.7, is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States.

The strain has been shown to be more transmissible and infectious among younger Americans, which Walensky said contributed to rising case counts in recent weeks.

Walensky said new outbreaks have been tied to youth sports and day care centers. She particularly encouraged states with rising caseloads to curtail or suspend youth sport activities to slow the spread of the virus.

The U.S. leads the world with 30.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 556,000 confirmed deaths.

According to the CDC, Florida became the first state in the U.S. to surpass 3,000 cases of COVID-19 variants. As of Tuesday, there had been 3,192 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain reported in Florida, data shows.

Dr. Michael Koren, director of the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research, has been studying COVID-19 and how the virus has mutated into multiple variants.

“Based on this analysis, there is a difference in the variants,” Koren said. “There are some concerns about the variants. But so far, so good -- meaning the vaccines are working really well against the variants.”

Koren said this is proven by current data that shows mortality rates dropping in the U.K. as a result of an aggressive vaccine campaign.

“So in the U.K., if the vaccine that was developed before that variant was present wasn’t working, then we wouldn’t see the numbers coming down in the U.K.,” Koren said.

But Koren said that even though the current vaccines are proven to work against the B.1.1.7 strain, people must remain vigilant to prevent the spread of the virus because not everyone has been vaccinated.

“Protect yourself through social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing,” Koren said. “And get the vaccine as soon as you can.”

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