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More contagious coronavirus variant is spreading across the US

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Variants and mutations are words that weren’t in news headlines very often until COVID. Health experts are talking a lot about variants now because of how quickly they are spreading.

“There are a number of variants, but the one right now that is gaining momentum in our own country is the B.1.1.7, which is the ‘UK variant’ as they call it because it just happened to be first noticed in the UK,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the NIAID said.

Fauci said every day the UK variant is getting more dominant in our country and likely counts now for 20-30 percent of the infections in this country, and that number is growing.

According to the CDC, there are more than 6,390 reported cases of the B.1.1.7. variant in the United States. In Indiana, there are 66 reported cases. Kentucky reports 25 cases of the variant, according to the CDC.

“I am concerned, but there is still hope as far as combating this,” Dr. Mark Burns, an Infectious Disease Specialist at UofL Health says.

Burns said the hope comes from the three vaccines we have available right now that appear to protect well against B.1.1.7. We also have to double down on wearing masks, avoiding crowds, social distancing.

“The symptoms are not any different,” Burns said. “The UK variant is actually more communicable.”

In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses. Burns said you would have to be tested for the UK variant, but there is another sign.

“Let’s just say if you get COVID again that would be a very high suspicion, a high index of suspicion that this could be a variant causing it,” Burns said.

Burns says he does have confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine which could be in the arms of Americans soon and its protection against the UK variant.

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