Many countries are currently battling a third wave of coronavirus thanks to highly transmissible mutations. The UK’s strain – B 1.1.7 – is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the previous strain and is thought to be behind the current surge in cases. Fears are also growing about the strains that have hatched out of South Africa and Brazil.
Now a new variant discovered in California is expected to become the dominant strain in the U.S.
Known as L452R, it was first detected in Denmark in March and appeared in California in May, reported The New York Times.
In December, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, sequenced genomes of coronavirus gathered around the state and found that the variant was present in just 3.8 percent of their samples.
By January, it had jumped to 25.2 percent.
The findings do not necessarily suggest that the new strain is any more contagious than the previous mutation.
As Charles Chiu, who led the sequencing, explained, he and his colleagues worked with a small sample size, so they have not yet proven that this variant is more contagious.
“But there are worrisome signs that this variant may be highly transmissible,” he said to the New York Times.
As of Monday, the new variant has been identified in Lake, Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Dan Diego, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo counties.
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“This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr Sara Cody, director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, in a statement.
Following the development, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, issued a warning to fellow Americans.
He said the variant should act as a ‘clarion call’ for Americans to get vaccinated.
Anti-vaccine sentiment is strong in America.
A recent survey, conducted by the polling company YouGov and shared exclusively with Reuters, found that less than half of Americans surveyed said they would be willing to have a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has remained broadly stable since July.
This compared with 73 percent of people in Britain and 70 percent in Denmark.
What we know so far about the UK variant
Data from whole genome sequencing, epidemiology and modelling suggest the new variant transmits more easily than other variants.
There is currently no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality – but we are continuing investigations to understand this better.
What are the main symptoms of coronavirus?
The main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
- According to the NHS, most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.
If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
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