THE British Medical Journal has found, in a study, that a highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. is associated with a 64% higher risk of dying.
The researchers, which published their findings Wednesday, said people infected with the B.1.1.7 covid variant were between 32% and 104% more likely to die.
That translates to a central estimate of 64%, they said, adding the “absolute risk of death in this largely unvaccinated population remains low.”
“In the community, death from COVID-19 is still a rare event, but the B.1.1.7 variant raises the risk. Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly this makes B.1.1.7 a threat that should be taken seriously,” Robert Challen, lead author of the study from the University of Exeter, said.
The researchers added that B.1.1.7 led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 patients.
That compares to 141 deaths in roughly the same number of patients who were infected with other strains.
With the variant already detected in more than 50 countries worldwide, “the analysis provides crucial information to governments and health officials to help prevent its spread,” they said.
The U.K. identified B.1.1.7, which appears to spread more easily and quickly than other strains, in the fall of 2020.
It has since spread to other parts of the globe, including the U.S., which has identified 3,283 cases as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New variants are especially a concern for public health officials as they could become more resistant to antibody treatments and vaccines.
Top health officials including White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, is urging Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possibly, saying the virus can’t mutate if it can’t infect hosts and replicate.