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Public health experts weigh in on UK variant, now the dominant strain in US

The CDC says the UK variant has become the most dominant COVID strain in the United States. That strain, B.1.1.7, is also widely circulating in Florida.

“Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said last week.

As of Monday afternoon, the latest CDC data shows Florida has 3,510 confirmed cases caused by the UK variant, which is more than any other state for that strain.

“What we know now just because of the data primarily from the UK is that it’s definitely more transmissible, and now that we’ve had a chance to follow it a little bit longer, it’s probably also more lethal,” said Dr. Kami Kim, an infectious disease clinical attending at Tampa General Hospital.

Dr. Kim said the message is still the same: get vaccinated. She explained the more people who are vaccinated means there’s less viruses around, so there’s less virus to give to other people and also less chance for the virus to mutate.

“With the variants, you may still get a mild case, but if it’s a mild case, that’s a cold instead of landing you in the hospital, that’s still a victory for the vaccines,” said Kim.

ABC Action News asked USF Health associate professor Dr. Michael Teng what we know about the three COVID-19 vaccines in use — Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna — and how effective they are against this particular strain.

“There’s very little decrease in how effective they are with this strain, so all three of them that we have currently in our vaccination program work well against this strain,” said Teng.

The CDC says public health officials are studying variants quickly to learn more about how to control their spread. In the meantime, Dr. Teng stresses the need to keep doing what we’ve been doing to make it through the pandemic’s final stretch.

“A marathon is 26.2 miles. We’re at like almost at mile 26. It’s not time to stop,” said Teng.

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