The highly contagious UK coronavirus variant could become the dominant strain in the US by March, health officials have warned.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned of “rapid growth” of the variant in coming weeks.
In its report, the CDC said that the UK variant would spread quickly in the coming weeks and further threaten health systems already strained by a winter Covid surge.
Research by Public Health England suggests the new variant is now dominant in much of Britain and is between 30% and 50% more transmissible than previous strains, however there is currently no evidence to suggest it causes any more serious illness.
Experts have also played down the possibility that the current vaccines will not be as effective against it.
So far, 76 people from 10 US states have been confirmed to have been infected with the UK variant, known as B.1.1.7.
But the CDC said: “The modelled trajectory of this variant in the US exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March.”
Two other variants – one from South Africa and one from Brazil – are also thought to be more contagious than the original one that started the pandemic. Studies are under way to assess the threat they pose.
The US has recorded the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections, 23.5 million of any country in the world and about 391,000 coronavirus deaths.