A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is worried about a new strain of COVID-19 that has been running rampant in California.
The scientists have been testing virus samples from recent outbreaks in the state and have seen a sharp increase in the number of cases involving the new variant known as B.1.427/B.1.429. They said that in September, the variant was not present, but by January, it was turning up in half of the cases.
The number of new cases caused by the mutated strain are doubling every 18 days, and by the end of March, the new variant could be responsible for up to 90% of the cases in California.
The variant has since spread from California and has been identified in 45 states and several countries including, Mexico and Australia.
Health experts are worried because not only does the new strain appear to be more infectious, it may also result in an "increased severity of disease." Lab tests showed that the new strain is 40% more effective at infecting people, and those infected with the variant had a viral load two times larger than those who had other strains of the virus.
"The devil is already here," said Dr. Charles Chiu, an infectious diseases researcher and physician at UCSF. "I wish it were different. But the science is the science."
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