To date, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded five variants this dubious distinction: B.1.1.7 (or the British variant), P.1 (Brazilian), B.1.351 (South African) and B.1.427 and B.1.429, the California variants.
Of these, only the California and British variants have been identified in Western New York, according to data from GISAID, a genomic data-sharing platform used by government agencies and academic researchers. But Surtees, who codirects UB’s Genome, Environment and Microbiome Community of Excellence, told The Buffalo News by email that it is possible that other variants are also in circulation. While her group has sequenced close to 1,000 genomes since the beginning of the pandemic, that still represents only a tiny fraction of the more than 100,000 cases the region has confirmed.
Are the California and British variants more deadly or contagious than other, earlier forms of the coronavirus?
Preliminary research suggests that the California variants are about 20% more infectious than earlier forms of the coronavirus, while the British variant is about 50% more transmissible. On Friday, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein suggested that the more contagious variants may be contributing to rising case counts in the region.