Home NEWS How UK is thrashing US in race to regulate COVID variants

How UK is thrashing US in race to regulate COVID variants


Since the novel coronavirus was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, several variants have emerged across the world.

Some have cropped in countries such as the UK, South Africa and Brazil, and others have been homegrown, including the variants that have appeared in California and New York City.

More than 2,100 cases of variants have been reported across 45 states, with just two deaths reported so far, both linked to the UK variant.

However, laboratory officials say they cannot tell patients or their physicians if they have been infected with a mutant strain.

The tests needed for detecting variants, known as genome sequencing tests, have not been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a diagnostic tool, according to Kaiser Health News

What’s more, there are federal rules which dictate what information university labs can report and to whom, meaning health officials counties don’t even know which counties in states have cases.

The testing is only performed by certain labs that are not required to tell patients or doctors their results. 

This is in stark comparison with the UK’s Office for National Statistics, which has very detailed accounts of which regions of England have cases of the variant and what percentage of test are linked to mutant strains. 

It come as Florida became the first U.S. state to record 500 cases of the UK variant, with cases doubling almost every 10 days.

In addition, infectious disease specialists now believe that a new coronavirus variant spreading through New York City is circulating in neighboring New Jersey. 

More than 2,100 cases of coronavirus variants have been reported across 45 states, including those from the UK, South Africa and Brazil, as well as homegrown mutant strains but federal rules that dictate what information labs can share mena officials don’t even know which counties have cases 

Comparatively, the UK has been tracking the incidence of its variant, known as B 1.1.7,as well as what percentage of tests are coming back positive for the new strain

Comparatively, the UK has been tracking the incidence of its variant, known as B 1.1.7,as well as what percentage of tests are coming back positive for the new strain 

Officials told Kaiser Health News that that there are federal guidelines regarding who can be told about variant cases.

This means public health officials telling residents about the detection of new cases may only know the county a case in, or just the fact that it is in a state.

Dr Nick Gilpin, the director of infection prevention at Beaumont Health in Michigan, told Kaiser Health News, that his hospital is informed if samples submitted for sequencing have been confirmed to be linked to variants.

However, laboratories will not shared who these patients are.  

‘It’s relevant from a systems-based perspective,’ Gilpin told the news website. 

‘If we have a bunch of B.1.1.7 in my backyard, that’s going to make me think a little differently about how we do business.’ 

While notifying patients that they have a variant won’t affect how patients are cared for, it could help contact tracers identify close contacts so they can quarantine and prevent potential spread. 

The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, a non-profit organization, have asked the federal government to wave these rules.  

New survey information revealed the variant is dominant in all regions of England, but officials know how prevalent it is in every region compared to the U.S.

New survey information revealed the variant is dominant in all regions of England, but officials know how prevalent it is in every region compared to the U.S.

‘It could be associated with a person in a high-risk congregate setting or it might not be, but without patient information, we don’t know what we don’t know,’ Janet Hamilton, executive director, told Kaiser Health News.

‘Time is ticking.’   

The CDC has scaled up its genomic sequencing capabilities from about 400 per week to more than 9,000 this week, according to director Dr Rochelle Walensky. 

What’s more, the Biden administration has pledged almost $200 million to better identify and track variants, with hopes of being able to test 25,000 samples a week.

This is very different from the way that surveillance is performed in the UK.

For one thing, although patients may not be told the results themselves, the government is tracking the incidence of the old virus and new strains by region.

In addition, the government’s Office of National Health Statistics (ONS) performs an analysis looking at the percentage of positive tests that are positive for the UK variant across the country. 

Not only does the analysis reveal the percentage of tests across several weeks inked to the variant In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island, but in all regions of England.

By comparison, the U.S. does not reveal what percentage of tests have come back positive for variant.

The Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium is currently analyzing more than 20,000 positive tests per week – xx more than the U.S.

It comes as officials say that a new coronavirus variant that emerged in New York City is likely circulating in New Jersey

It comes as officials say that a new coronavirus variant that emerged in New York City is likely circulating in New Jersey 

It comes as officials say that a new coronavirus variant that emerged in New York City is likely circulating in New Jersey. 

The variant, which first appeared in samples collected in the Big Apple in November, now makes up about 27 percent of viral sequences deposited into a database shared by scientists called GISAID, according to The New York Times

Two version of the variant are circulating, but both are being called B.1.526 variant for now.

One carries the E484K mutation – found in the Brazilian and South African variants – and which scientists believe reduces the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

The other has the S477N mutation, which may act like a guide for the virus to infect human cells, optimizing the binding process and possibly increasing case rates.  

‘As soon as people start looking, they’re going to find this stuff,’ Dr David Cennimo, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told NJ Advance Media.

‘It’s just [that] nobody was looking.’  

Cennimo said the next few months will be telling about how dangerous the mutation – whether cases will continue to decline or begin surging again. 

‘This could go down as a whole bunch of historical curiosity,’ Cennimo told NJ Advance Media. 

‘And people are going to say: “Oh, look, they all freaked out about a couple of mutation variants…” or it’s going to be: “Look at this – a whole new branch on the phylogenetic tree took off, and there’s a whole second huge spike to this epidemic.”‘

On Friday, Florida has become the first U.S. state to reach 500 cases of the B 1.1.7. variant after the first cases was detected on New Year's Eve

On Friday, Florida has become the first U.S. state to reach 500 cases of the B 1.1.7. variant after the first cases was detected on New Year’s Eve

A pre-print study found that cases involving the new variant are most prevalent in Florida, doubling every nine days and making up 5% of all cases in the state

A pre-print study found that cases involving the new variant are most prevalent in Florida, doubling every nine days and making up 5% of all cases in the state

Meanwhile, on Friday, Florida became the first U.S. state to reach 500 cases of the B 1.1.7. variant, according to the CDC. 

The first case was detected in a man in his 20s from Martin County, in southwest Florida, on New Year’s Eve with no history of travel.

This means it took just 57 days for cases to hit 500 cases, meaning the number of infections in the state were doubling every nine days, according to a pre-print study.

The study also found that B 1.1.7 cases currently make up more than five percent of all cases in Florida, and will likely only increase.

Florida surpassed California as the state the most cases of B 1.1.7. on January 19 and has more than double the number of cases.

Neither the CDC nor the Florida Department of Health has revealed in which Florida counties these cases have been found.   



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