UK virus strain in 3 states; South Africa variant deemed 'even more of a problem': 5 things to know

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The fast-spreading COVID-19 variant originating in the U.K. has been detected in 33 countries, while South Africa has reported a new, potentially more concerning variant, reports The New York Times and WNBC.

Five things to know:

1. The U.K. strain has been discovered in Colorado, California and Florida, all in patients who haven't reported any travel history, reports the NYT. The COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 was first detected in the U.S. at the end of December in a Colorado man.

2. Experts believe the U.K. variant is spread more easily, but don't think the strain is more deadly, according to WNBC.  

3. South Africa is reporting a surge of coronavirus infections and deaths, fueled by a new variant, reports the NYT. Officials announced plans Jan. 3 to target 67 percent of the nation with vaccines to achieve broad immunity, though some have criticized the government, claiming it only has enough vaccines to cover 10 percent of the population.

4. The coronavirus variant identified in South Africa is "even more of a problem than the U.K. new variant," Matt Hancock, Britain's health secretary, told the BBC, according to WNBC. The U.K. has banned visitors from South Africa.

5. Several experts have said they believe vaccines will be effective against the new strains, but Dr. John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University in the U.K., voiced concerns regarding the variant in South Africa. "They're not a single mutation," he told Times Radio Jan. 3. "The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the [virus's spike] protein."  

More articles on public health:
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state
COVID-19 has killed 350,000 Americans; South African variant alarms officials — 5 updates
19 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Jan. 4

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