New COVID-19 Variants | CDC

Information about the properties of these variants is quickly available. Scientists are working to learn more about how easily they can spread, whether they can cause more serious diseases, and whether currently-approved vaccines will protect people from them. There is currently no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or an increased risk of death.

What we know

US COVID-19 cases caused by variants

View a card with the number of confirmed cases in each state.

Viruses are constantly changing through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to appear over time. Sometimes new variants appear and disappear. In other cases, new variants arise and remain. During this pandemic, several variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 were documented in the United States and around the world.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus, a large family of viruses. Coronaviruses are named after the crown-like spines on their surface. Scientists monitor changes in the virus, including changes in the tips on the surface of the virus. These studies, including genetic analysis of the virus, help us understand how changes to the virus can affect the spread of the virus and what happens to people who are infected with the virus.

There are several COVID-19 variants in circulation around the world. In the United Kingdom (UK) a new variant with an unusually large number of mutations has emerged. This variant seems to spread easier and faster than other variants. There is currently no evidence to suggest a more severe illness or increased risk of death. This variant was first discovered in September 2020 and is now widespread in London and south east England. It has since been discovered in numerous countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.

In South Africa, a different variant has arisen independently of the variant found in Great Britain. This variant, originally discovered in early October, shares some mutations with the variant discovered in Great Britain. There have been cases caused by this variant outside of South Africa. This variant seems to spread easier and faster than other variants. There is currently no evidence to suggest a more severe illness or increased risk of death.

Another variant recently surfaced in Nigeria. CDC is also monitoring this strain, but there is currently no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness or an increased spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

What we don't know

Scientists are working to learn more about these variants, and more study is needed to understand:

  • How far have these new variants spread?
  • How do the new variants differ?
  • How the disease caused by these new variants differs from the disease caused by other currently circulating variants

What it means

Public health officials are quickly investigating these variants to learn more about how to control their spread. You want to understand whether the variants:

  • Spread more easily from person to person
  • Causes milder or more severe illnesses in humans
  • Are detected by currently available virus tests
  • Respond to medications currently used to treat COVID-19 patients
  • Change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. There is no evidence to suggest it, and most experts believe it is unlikely due to the nature of the immune response to the virus.

What CDC does

CDC is closely monitoring the situation in collaboration with other public health authorities. CDC is working to identify and characterize emerging viral variants and to expand the search for COVID-19 and new variants. In addition, CDC has on-site staff to investigate the characteristics of viral variants. CDC is working with EPA to confirm disinfectants are on EPA List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19).external symbol

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