16:20 PM

The new, fast-spreading coronavirus strain: What we know, and how to stay safe



The COVID-19 virus has mutated, but it doesn’t change the ways we can protect ourselves.

A more contagious variant of coronavirus, which surfaced in the United Kingdom last September, is now right in our own back yard.

Diagnosed cases of B117 – the new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19—have been reported in at least 37 countries, and in several U.S. states, including New York. Some experts believe it’s likely already in New Jersey.

We are still learning about how and why this strain is more easily transmitted than other forms of the coronavirus, but here’s what we’ve learned so far:

B117 is more contagious: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the variant is estimated to be responsible for 60 percent of recent infections in London and Southeast England, while the World Health Organization estimates that this variant is up to 70 percent more transmissible than other strains of the coronavirus.

Is it a more deadly strain? Evidence collected to date does not invalidate that this variant increases the risk of death or causes a more serious case of COVID-19. The CDC and is evaluating data to determine whether in fact this variant is deadlier. 

Dominant in children: Epidemiologists in the UK studying B117 suggest that this strain is more prevalent in children (0-19 years of age), but does not necessarily lead to more severe cases.

Vaccines remain effective: The CDC reported it’s unlikely that the vaccines developed to inoculate people against the coronavirus are any less effective against the B117 variant.

Same formula for staying safe: The arrival of the B117 variant in the U.S., and the risk to our safety from other variants that are surfacing worldwide, is a stark reminder to be vigilant with preventive measures and precautions such as:

  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth
  • Avoiding close contact with others by maintaining at least six feet of distance
  • Avoiding crowds
  • Avoiding poorly ventilated spaces
  • Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds