(WXYZ) — Michigan got its first case of the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus about two months ago, and as of Wednesday, it has the second-most cases of the variant in the country.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, Michigan has 725 reported cases of the variant in 31 counties, as of Wednesday morning. Only Florida, with 738 cases, has more.
"It’s in both peninsulas in the state and has really spread throughout the state," MDHHS Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Lyon-Callo said.
The first cases were identified in Washtenaw County back in January, and it forced the stoppage of University of Michigan athletics for two weeks after several people involved in the athletics department tested positive for the variant.
In all, there are 4,685 cases of the coronavirus B.1.1.7. variant in the United States, and Michigan accounts for 15% of those cases. Additionally, 420 cases are within the Michigan Department of Corrections.
There are also cases in Grand Ledge, after a basketball game has been linked to at least 47 cases of COVID-19, two of which are the B.1.1.7. variant, according to the Lansing State Journal.
Earlier this month, the B.1.351 variant has been found in a child living in Jackson County, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Monday evening. That's the South African variant.
According to the CDC, the UK variant emerged with a large number of mutations and has been detected in countries around the world.
An early study from scientists in the U.K. found that evidence suggests the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk compared to other variants. There are still more studies that are needed to confirm the findings.
"This variant has a mutation in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein at position 501, where the amino acid asparagine (N) has been replaced with tyrosine (Y). The shorthand for this mutation is N501Y," according to the CDC.
Johns Hopkins reports that this variant accounted for 60% of new cases in the U.K. in December, and it's expected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. in the near future.
Four weeks ago B.1.1.7 made up only 1 to 4% of the total virus cases…now it’s 30 to 40% of the cases. And if we look at what happened in Europe, they had a huge surge once the variant cases hit the 50% mark.
So to me, it feels like the perfect storm is brewing – we’ve got traditional celebrations and events, a very contagious variant, and several states who’ve done away with mask mandates or have eased up too early on safety measures.
The latest research shows that here in the US, the B.1.1.7 variant is 59% to 74% more transmissible than the original virus. In the UK, where it was first found, the reproduction rate has been estimated as high as 90%.
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