Joe Biden pays tribute as US covid death toll passes 500,000
They also fear it could combine with the strain already identified in the UK to create an even deadlier virus. In a study which helps explain a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US state of California, scientists at UC San Francisco said a cluster of mutations marks it out as a “variant of concern”.
As such, the strain, officially named B.1.427/B.1.429, is on a par with the one first spotted in Kent, as well as those which have since emerged in South Africa and Brazil.
Dr Charles Chiu, an infectious diseases researcher and physician at UCSF, said: “The devil is already here.
“I wish it were different. But the science is the science.
Dr Anthony Fauci has said new strains make getting vaccinated even more vital
US President Joe Biden
“This variant is concerning because our data shows that it is more contagious, more likely to be associated with severe illness, and at least partially resistant to neutralising antibodies.”
Both variants spread more easily than the original strain of COVID-19, with Dr Chiu concerned about a consequent return to spiking infections and deaths.
He also floated the possibility of a “nightmare scenario” whereby the two variants will meet in a single person, creating a hybrid, even more deadly strain.
JUST IN: London Mayor told he’s ‘utterly failed’ as murder rate in capital soar
Dr Rochelle Walensky
Dr Chiu’s paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed suggests the variant may be linked to “worse outcomes”.
Eight of 61, or 13 percent, of hospitalised patients were admitted to the ICU, compared with seven of 244, or 2.9 percent, of hospitalised patients who did not have the variant.
Seven of 62 people (or 11.3 percent) with the variants died, compared with five of 246 (or two) of people without it.
Robert Schooley, an infectious disease physician and virologist at UC San Diego who was not involved in the research, noted its findings of high viral loads in infected people’s noses.
Elon Musk blamed Brexit for Tesla plant snub but he may not be right [INSIGHT]
London urged to turn into ‘Singapore’ as EU ‘in breach of WTO’ [REVEALED]
Macron torn apart by French MEP after UK clinches vaccine [EXCLUSIVE]
Californians wait for their coronavirus vaccinations
The US is pushing to vaccinate people as fast as possible
He told Science magazine: “The biology of having a higher level of virus would certainly fit the thesis that people would not do as well.
“We are seeing here in Southern California more people for a longer period of time in our ICUs.”
Speaking last month after the California strain was first identified by Dr Chiu and his team, Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser, told NBC’s Meet the Press: “When you have a variant that is really very, very different, in the sense that it’s more contagious, it tells you to do two things.
“One, double down on the public health measures we’ve been talking about all the time.”
Coronavirus vaccination rates compared
He echoed the advice of President Biden, who has urged Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days and possibly more, to maintain social distancing and avoid large crowds.”
He added: “But also, another important thing: the easiest way to evade this negative effect of these new isolates is to, when the vaccine becomes available, people should get vaccinated.
“If there was ever a clarion call for people to put aside vaccine hesitancy, if we can get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, we’d be in very good shape.”
Speaking earlier this month about the efforts to study emerging COVID-19 variants, a Biden administration official told CNN: “We are not where we want to be in terms of genetic sequencing, although we are ramping up.
Cars wait in line outside a vaccination centre in California
Coronavirus cases worldwide
“We are starting way behind on genetic sequencing.”
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said the UK variant was responsible for an estimated one to four percent of cases in the US.
She said: “We do not believe the variants are distributed equally across the country at this time.”
Dr Walensky did not provide estimates in relation to the California, South Africa or Brazil strains.