A COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom hit the United States a few weeks ago, and the variant from South Africa popped up in South Carolina last week. Here’s what you need to know. Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 variants in the US.
How Many COVID-19 Variants Are There?
So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified three COVID-19 variants in the US. One called B.1.1.7 was identified in the United Kingdom. Another called B.1.351 was identified in South Africa. And health officials in Japan identified a third variant called P.1 in travelers who were coming from Brazil.
What Is Different About the COVID-19 Variants?
Health officials around the world are still studying the emerging COVID-19 variants to see how they are different from the original virus strain that caused the global pandemic. The variants seem to spread “more easily and quickly,” the CDC noted. Information on the severity of disease tied to these variants is still limited.
How Many Cases of the Variants Are in the US?
As of publishing time, the CDC reported the following numbers of COVID-19 variant cases in the US:
- B.1.1.7 (UK variant) – 541 cases
- B.1.351 (South Africa variant) – Three cases
- P.1 (Brazil variant) – Two cases
How Widespread Are These Variants?
State health officials are still trying to catch up with reported cases and test strains to identify which COVID-19 variants are causing cases. According to the CDC, the most widespread variant at publishing time was the UK variant, which had reached 33 states.
The South Africa variant had been reported in two states (Maryland and South Carolina). And the Brazil variant had been reported in Minnesota.
Florida and California had the highest numbers of cases of the UK variant, at 186 and 127 cases, respectively.
Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Work Against the Variants?
So far, the research on this subject has suggested that the COVID-19 vaccines will generate antibodies that will combat these variants. However, the Brazil variant “contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies,” according to the CDC.
Should I Do Anything Differently to Avoid Catching One of the COVID-19 Variants?
Although there has been some talk about potentially wearing two face masks to avoid COVID-19 variants that are potentially more contagious, the CDC still recommends the traditional safety measures. These include mask wearing, social distancing, isolation and quarantine, and frequent hand-washing and sanitizing.
If you are concerned about your risk for COVID-19, talk to your health care provider.