Dr. Fauci Just Made This Scary Prediction About the U.K. COVID Strain

The top infectious disease expert has a warning about the highly contagious variant.

The discovery of a new strain of the novel coronavirus in the U.K. in late December quickly created panic when scientists realized it was far more contagious than the dominant strain. Even as countries around the world took action to stop it from entering their borders, some health officials, such as Anthony Fauci, MD, advised against precautions like travel bans, assuming it was likely the variant was already in the U.S. Now, barely a week after Fauci's theory was proven true, he is issuing another prediction about what we should expect with U.K. COVID strain—and the outlook is not so good. Read on to find out what Fauci believes will happen next with the U.K. variant, and for an update on where the new strain has been reported so far, check out The New COVID Strain Is Now in These 5 States.

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Fauci predicts the U.K. COVID strain is likely in "several more states."

A group of young people wearing face masks stand spread out in an alleyway.

During an interview with Newsweek published on Jan. 6, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said the new strain—which is officially known as the B.1.1.7 variant—is probably in more than just the five known states: Colorado, California, Florida, New York, and Georgia. "I think it's pretty clear that if it's in places like California, and New York and Colorado… that pretty soon it's going to be in several more states," he said. And for his prediction about the South Africa strain, check out Dr. Fauci Just Issued This Warning About Another New COVID Strain.

Fauci also says the new strain is probably "more widespread" than we realize.

A young couple sitting on a bunch wearing face masks distances themselves from another person on the other end of the bench.

Not only is the variant likely in more than just five states, but Fauci also told Newsweek that he believes the U.K. strain is more prevalent among COVID patients than we realize. He said he thinks it's "more widespread in the United States than we are currently detecting it to be." The reason why we don't know just how prevalent the strain is is because COVID tests determine whether or not a patient has the virus, but further genetic sequencing needs to be done to determine which strain of the virus the person has contracted.

"In the U.S., it's a really spotty picture," molecular epidemiologist Emma Hodcroft, PhD, told Vox of the country's sequencing strategy. "Some states have really invested in sequencing; some states haven't. So for some states, we probably have a fair idea of what's going on. In other states, we really don't have many sequences." And for more regular coronavirus updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.

But he doesn't think the current surge is related to the U.K. variant.

Doctor in a protective suit taking a nasal swab from a person to test for possible corona virus infection on the street. Diver through covid-19 testing center in city.

Fauci said he doesn't believe the current outbreaks overtaking many parts of the U.S. are because of the highly transmissible U.K. variant. "We have our own problems with surging cases," he explained. "I don't think that the U.K. mutation [variant] has been responsible for the rather substantial surge of cases in the United States, because the U.K. variant is here, but it's not the dominant strain in the United States. But even with that not being the dominant strain, we still have a very steep curve of cases in our country." And for insight into where the situation is the most dire at the moment, check out This State Now Has the Worst COVID Outbreak in the U.S.

He says health officials are taking the new strain "very seriously."

Scientist working in a laboratory using a pipette

Just because the U.K. variant is not yet the dominant strain in the U.S. doesn't mean the more contagious version of the virus won't create serious issues as the pandemic progresses. "We take that very seriously," Fauci warned of the variant's contagiousness. "If you have greater transmissibility, you will get more cases. When you get more cases, you get more hospitalizations. And when you get more hospitalizations, you ultimately wind up getting more deaths." And for more insight into where cases are on the rise, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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