State of COVID-19: What you should know about the CDC's 5 variants of concern

Erica Carbajal and Gabrielle Masson - Print  | 

Many experts believe variants are largely driving the recent upticks in COVID-19 cases across the U.S., with the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., now accounting for about 26 percent of all U.S. infections, according to recent CDC estimates

The variant, which is between 50 and 70 percent more transmissible, is the predominant strain in at least five regions of the country, according to Rochelle Walensky, MD, CDC director. 

States such as Florida, Texas and Michigan are reporting especially troublesome trends and are currently experiencing some of the highest variant caseloads.

The CDC currently lists five "variants of concern," defining them as ones "for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures." 

The agency's three-tier classification system has "variant of high consequence" as the most worrisome group, followed by "variant of concern" and then "variant of interest." No variant is currently considered a variant of high consequence. 

Here's a breakdown of the five "variants of concern," as outlined by the CDC: 

B.1.1.7, first detected in the U.K.:

P.1, first detected in Brazil and Japan:

B.1.351, first detected in South Africa:

B.1.427, first detected in California:

B.1.429, first detected in California

 

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